Cornal Hendricks and Johan Goosen would be two superb additions to the Springbok squad before the end of the year, writes CRAIG LEWIS.
The Boks are nothing if not a tight-knit and well-settled unit. The majority of the squad is still made up of World Cup winners from 2019, and that experience undoubtedly played a massive part in enabling them to recently overcome the British & Irish Lions.
But as the Springboks begin to look ahead, and assess their backline stocks, the names of Hendricks and Goosen must be increasingly difficult to ignore.
At the moment it’s impossible to gauge just how much of a Bok barometer competing in the Currie Cup presents, but there is good reason that some players simply stand out as a class apart.
Since returning to the Bulls, Johan Goosen has looked like he has a new lease on his rugby life.
There was a swagger to his play after earning the Man of the Match award when the Bulls faced the South Africa A side, and he has continued to jol in the Currie Cup.
After the well-documented highs and lows of his career, it’s clear how much he is enjoying his rugby at the moment, in an environment where he feels comfortable, and is needed and wanted.
Similarly, Hendricks continues to play with a beaming smile and with a consistent impact that has set him apart for some time now as one of the most influential backline players on the domestic circuit.
The Boks made no secret of the fact they were interested in reacquiring his services in an expanded squad for the Lions series, but that situation has been complicated by legal matters related to his previous heart condition.
If his pathway to a remarkable Springbok comeback can finally be cleared, it’s become increasingly evident that he would be a superb addition to the national squad.
For too long, I have continued to overlook Hendricks as a viable Bok option considering he is 33 years old, but such a view appears to be folly.
The years he was forced out of the game appear to have added real longevity to his career, as well as his hunger and desire to make the most of his ‘second chance’ for as long as he can.
Between now and the next World Cup, I also suspect there will be two other Bok stalwarts who will naturally fall by the wayside.
Frans Steyn has already been clearly handing over the baton to another talented utility back in Damian Willemse, and at 34 years old, the double World Cup winner is undoubtedly in the twilight of his Bok career.
Morne Steyn, who has become the Boks’ dedicated team DJ, has been moving and shaking to the beat of his own drum after earning a stunning recall to the Springbok squad, casually slotting the match-winning goal-kicks against the Lions, and then cruising off on the Rugby Championship tour.
However, this season is surely his swansong in the green and gold.
And so, as the Springboks look to their long-term depth at flyhalf, an opening undoubtedly arises for Goosen, who is still just 29 years old, and playing some of the most measured and mature rugby of his career.
The fact he also offers utility value at centre and fullback only heightens his value.
The same can be said for Hendricks, who won’t be displacing anyone from the starting lineup, but has the ability to cover centre and wing, while his outlook on the game and mentorship capabilities would surely make him a perfect fit in a Bok squad that places a premium on knowledge sharing and empowering players with holistic on- and off-field roles.
There is nothing to suggest Hendricks or Goosen would look out of place on the Test stage, and perhaps even as soon as the end-of-year tour, it would be a welcome sight to see them back in the green and gold.