CAPE TOWN – He is almost a forgotten figure in South African rugby, and one many unions have treated shabbily.
But Springbok wing Cornal Hendricks is back on the rugby field. The 30-year-old from Wellington in the Boland has signed a contract to play for the Bulls in the 2019 Super Rugby competition.
Hendricks, who has scored five tries in 12 Bok Tests, last played for South Africa in 2015.
He then left the Cheetahs to join the Stormers and Western Province for the 2016 season, but never got on to the field.
Hendricks picked up a heart condition that saw him unable to play, and he has since tried to join up with Toulon in France, and back home with the Bulls and Southern Kings previously.
But nothing came of those attempts, which has seen Hendricks restricted to sevens invitational tournaments over the last few years, while he has also established the Cornal Hendricks Foundation.
The former Blitzbok star, though, has always been determined to get back into 15-man rugby, and now the Bulls have given him a chance.
“After thorough examinations and testing, Hendricks has now been cleared to play again by a leading heart specialist, while the player himself declared that he is fully aware of his diagnoses and possible effects and/or risks associated with his condition and happy to give it another go,” the Pretoria-based union said in a statement on Friday.
Hendricks himself said: “As with any rugby player that plays this beautiful game, I fully understand the risks that go with it as I enter into this contract with the BBCo. I accept such risks.
“I have played in a number of invitational tournaments around the world in the last two years, so I am keen to become part of a team structure and squad again, especially one known for their good culture and structure.
“The Bulls are definitely a team in an upward curve, so it is pretty exciting joining them.”
The Bulls have already signed Duane Vermeulen for next season, while there are rumours that fellow Bok Schalk Brits could also turn out at Loftus Versfeld.
They are yet to finalise the appointment of a new head coach, though, following the departure of John Mitchell to England a few months ago.
There remains the possibility of Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus helping out at the Bulls, while Victor Matfield has been mentioned as a possible assistant.
On Hendricks, Bulls high performance manager Xander Janse van Rensburg said: “We evaluated him and are happy to give him the opportunity to play professional rugby at the highest level again.
“After all, he is a great player, a Springbok, and a truly great team man as well, who will contribute and fit into the #BullsFamily with ease. We are keen to see him perform again.”