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Cornal Hendricks' future with the Springboks remains on ice

Mahlatse Mphahlele Sports reporter
Cornal Hendricks has been one of the standout performers for the Bulls under Jake White.
Cornal Hendricks has been one of the standout performers for the Bulls under Jake White.
Image: Samuel Shivambu/BackpagePix

Springbok coach Jacques Nienaber has confirmed that Bulls utility back Cornal Hendricks will not play in the Rugby Championship.

The 33-year-old Hendricks, who has been one of the standout performers at Loftus under Jake White, is involved in negotiations with SA Rugby on how he can return to the Springboks after he was diagnosed with a heart condition in 2016.

When the Bok squad to play against the British and Irish Lions was announced in June, SA Rugby director of rugby Rassie Erasmus said Hendricks' omission was due to “other reasons”.

Recently, White confirmed that Hendricks and SA Rugby are in negotiations.

“I know there is a set process and there may be the final verdict on how they can get around it from a protection point of view. No-one wants to be liable for anything, I am talking about whether he is fit to play, he has done the paper work,” said White.

“I am sure in the background, having gone through a difficult series against the Lions, the focus was on those three games. But who knows, maybe in the next couple of weeks he continues to play well for the Bulls and to put his hand up,” added White.

When asked on the issue, Nienaber explained that it is difficult for the coaching staff to bring players into the bio-bubble because of the complicated Covid-19 testing requirements.

“Cornal is playing for the Bulls now,” said Nienaber. “Like I said in the beginning, the tough thing for us in getting a player in from the outside is that there are specific testing regimes like blood tests on specific days, polymerase chain reaction PCR tests and antigen tests.”

The Springboks take on Argentina in the second match of the Rugby Championship at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium on Saturday before travelling to Australasia to play against Australia and New Zealand in the coming weeks.

“It’s a strict thing that we have to follow and you have Australian government rules of entering the country. That's why a lot of players, let me say a dozen or so, are on the fringe and if we do pick up injuries they are ones we will bring into the squad.

“But again on that, if you ask me what size of the squad I would prefer to take abroad, it will probably be in the region of 37. I think 37 is manageable and you remember that every player we add to our squad is a player that’s probably not going to get an opportunity if nobody gets injured.

“It is tough to sit there for six weeks doing all the training and never getting opportunities. If I could, and it was easy and quicker for the coaching staff to get a player into Australia, we would probably have travelled with a smaller squad.

“But it is just impossible with the regulations that are in place. It takes 14 days quarantine and then before a player can get on the plane, he has to go into 10 days of a specific routine in terms of how he isolates himself, what tests get done, and when and where and how frequently.

“He must produce negative tests as he goes through a 10-day period before he gets on  the plane. Players who are on standby are on those regimes — not just Cornal but all the players.”