The 'tightrope' Cornal Hendricks walked to keep Bok dream alive
Cornal Hendricks has been walking the proverbial ‘tightrope’ for the last year – a struggle to get a medical clearance that allows him to be recalled to the Springbok team.
Just 10 days ago that ‘clearance’ came and on Friday he received a ‘surprise’ call-up to the South African ‘A’ team that will play midweek matches against Munster and the Bristol Bears.
The ‘A’ team’s trip to the Northern Hemisphere is part of a broader year-end campaign that also sees the Springboks face Ireland, France, Italy and England.
The SA ‘A” includes nine capped Springboks in a 19-man squad – including Hendricks, who played the last of his 12 Tests against New Zealand at Ellispark, Johannesburg, in July 2915 – then aged 27.
Now age 34, he gets a chance to take a step closer to realising his dream of a Bok recall.
It all came crashing down around Hendricks at a Sevens training camp in 2015, when he was diagnosed with a life-threatening heart condition that could have caused cardiac arrest on the field.
Instantly teams distanced themselves from him.
He could not get a contract in South Africa or abroad.
Eventually, the Bulls took a punt on him and he has been one of their form players in the post-COVID era.
However, a national recall still evaded him – till Friday.
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South Africa’s Director of Rugby Rassie Erasmus pointed to Madosh Tambwe, along with the Tshituka brothers Vincent and Emmanuel, as other examples of players they can’t select – despite their sublime form and obvious talent.
“Some guys just don’t qualify,” Erasmus told a virtual media briefing, adding: “We can’t just select them [for the Springboks].
“Until they qualify [to play] for us, there is nothing we can do about that,” he said of the Congolese-born Tshitukas and Tambwe, born in Zaire and schooled in Johannesburg.
Erasmus reiterated the often-stated fact that they could not get a medical clearance to select Hendricks for the national team, despite his obviously impressive form.
“That [the medical clearance] has been sorted out through hard work by himself,” the DoR said, adding: “The Bulls helped us, [as well as] the medical team and the legal team.
“It has really been a process.
“A year ago we said we are working on that, trying to get him eligible to play.
“It has been sorted out, I think [only] 10 days ago, that we could select him again.”