Bryan backs Cornal to cook

Springbok legend Bryan Habana believes Cornal Hendricks will bring something new to the team dynamic this Saturday. JON CARDINELLI reports.

Hendricks will play his first game for the Boks against the World XV at Newlands this weekend. Coach Heyneke Meyer says the selection is based on the Cheetahs winger’s form in the 2014 Super Rugby tournament, as well as the player’s past achievements as a Bok sevens specialist.

There has also been a suggestion by Meyer that the Boks need to explore other right wing options. Regular No 14 JP Pietersen will not be available for the Rugby Championship later this year due to club commitments in Japan, and so it’s best that the Boks develop an alternative sooner rather than later.

Hendricks will start this Saturday’s game in a back-three combination that includes Willie le Roux and Habana. The latter is the most experienced backline player in the line-up, with 95 Tests to his name.

‘I will be looking out for him this weekend,’ said Habana when asked about his new team-mate. ‘I remember when I made my debut [against England in 2004], there were a number of experienced guys like Breyton Paulse and Percy Montgomery playing that day, and they certainly helped me settle.’

Habana scored a try on his debut, and believes that Hendricks will have a similar impact in his first match for South Africa.

‘He was the [sevens] Player of the Year in 2013, and what’s really impressed me is that he hasn’t rested on his laurels. He’s set himself some big goals, switching from sevens to the 15-man code and has put in the hard work. I believe he will bring something new to the mix, an energy that the rest of us can feed off.’

While he was humbled to have this opportunity, Hendricks said that he hoped that it was the first of many.

‘I’m here [in the Bok set-up], but I realise that the hard work has only just begun. I’m going to have to work even harder to stay here. I have to make my chance count [this Saturday].

‘I’m learning a lot from Bryan, and from Willie [who made his debut for the Boks in June 2013]. Willie and I have played a lot of rugby together, not only at the Cheetahs for the past couple of years, but also back in the day when we were both at Boland.

‘I’m am a bit nervous, but I am confident that these guys will provide me with the necessary support,’ he said.

Photo: Chris Ricco/BackpagePix

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Jon Cardinelli