Rassie Erasmus explains why Cornal Hendricks did not make the Springbok squad

Rassie Erasmus explains why Cornal Hendricks did not make the Springbok squad

Rassie Erasmus has explained the omission of Bulls centre Cornal Hendricks from the 46-man Springbok squad for the British & Irish Lions series.

One of the biggest talking points after the announcement were the omission of a number of players with Cornal Hendricks one of the standout names missing in the squad.

Speaking after the squad announcement, Erasmus said the door remains open for anyone who didn't make the initial squad and on Hendricks, in particular, Erasmus explained that he should be in this initial 46-man group, but medical issues had cost him for now.

‘There’s another issue around Cornal,’ Erasmus explained.

‘We had a good meeting with him about 10 days ago.

‘We’re trying to clear up some medical issues around him and the moment that’s cleared up we want him [in the squad].

He obviously should make the squad of 46, but as I said there’s some medical issues around him which we have to clear up.’

Hendricks last played for the Springboks in 2015 before being forced into semi-retirement due to a heart condition.

Hendricks lit up the World Sevens Circuit scoring 61 tries in 82 matches between 2012 and 2014 with his form finally attracting the interest of a Super Rugby team, the Cheetahs. 

At the age of 25, Hendricks made his long-awaited and well deserved Super Rugby debut and did not disappoint as he scored his first try in the 49th minute against the Lions. 

2014 proved to be a breakthrough year for the hot stepping winger who featured in all of the Cheetahs games until June when he would be named in the Springbok squad and make his first appearance for his country against a World XV side.

A full test debut followed soon after as Heyeneke Meyer rewarded Hendricks' form with a start on his test debut against Wales. Once again, he rose to the occasion scoring a try, again assisted by Willie Le Roux, on his debut as South Africa claimed a 38-16 win in Durban.

2015 saw Hendricks hit some of the best form of his career as focused turned to the Rugby World Cup in England as well as the 2016 Olympics with the Blitzboks. During his time with Boland, his form was ignored by Stormers coach Allister Coetzee and in 2015 it seemed as if his career would come full circle as he finally signed a deal with the Stormers.  


However, his career would come to a complete halt after earning his 12 test caps for the Boks. A sudden heart condition meant that he was unable to play, and he never donned the Stormers or WP jersey, missed the Rugby World Cup and Olympics. He was forced to put his career on hold with a deal with Toulon also cancelled. 

Despite his condition, Hendricks remained positive telling EWN in 2016: "I am not going to retire now, I'm still going to play a lot of rugby."

"There is still plenty of rugby inside of me, I still want to play for a very long time."

He was not wrong. After three years out of elite-level rugby, he fought his way back to the top and earned a Super Rugby contract with the Bulls in 2019.

"Those were unbelievably dark days. I had played for the BlitzBokke and had hoped to be part of the team for the 2016 Rio Olympic Games.

"Instead, I stayed at my home, severely depressed, and could not bear to watch those I once played alongside as they competed in Brazil.

"I continued to train, but motivating myself was extremely difficult because I felt all the hard work I was putting in had no purpose."

The speedster believed he could play top-level rugby again and upon his return to Super Rugby with the Bulls, he revealed the support he received from the man who handed him his first test cap, Heyneke Meyer.

"Heyneke and (my agent) Anthony Johnson never gave up hope and after playing some sevens, club and exhibition rugby, the Bulls gave me a contract after I underwent tests."

His return to Super Rugby was far from just filling up the Bulls rooster as he went on to make 14 appearances for the side in his first season back scoring five tries on the wing, including a brace in the quarter-final loss to the Hurricanes which led to calls him to get a test recall ahead of the Rugby World Cup.

The 2020 Super Rugby season saw Hendricks feature in 5 of the Bulls 6 Super Rugby games scoring twice off the wing before the competition was brought to halt because of the coronavirus pandemic. 

During lockdown in South Africa, the Bulls announced the arrival of Jake White as the side's new Director of Rugby. A move that would not only kick start a winning year for the Bulls but provide Hendricks with another career-defining opportunity. 

With White at the helm, there was a lot of change at the Bulls with a number of players joining and departing the franchise but for Hendricks, there was a positional switch.

Hendricks played his entire Super Rugby and test career on the wing but at the age of 32 he started for the first time in the centre for the Bulls in White's first game in charge. While Hendricks did play outside centre for Boland, the move to the #12 jersey was somewhat foreign to him but again he rose to the occasion and thrived. The Bulls won their first match with Hendricks in the #12 jersey thumping the Sharks 49-28 at Loftus to kick start a stellar year.

Since then, Hendricks has been a standout for the Bulls and had  many pundits believing he had done enough to earn a recall to the 46-man squad for the British & Irish Lions series.


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