Cape Town – Heyneke Meyer has dropped heavy hints that
prolific try-scoring Cornal Hendricks could be safe in his Springbok right wing
position for the foreseeable future.
If so, it suddenly endangers Japan-based JP Pietersen, once
a regular feature in the No 14 jersey and up to a year or so ago touted as one
of the best outside backs in the world; his more recent international form has
been fairly patchy.
Pietersen, who was named on the Bok bench for Saturday’s
Castle Rugby Championship Test against Australia at Newlands (17:05 kickoff),
may become simply a versatile squad member, slugging it out with the likes of
Jan Serfontein, Jaque Fourie and Damian de Allende for a centre slot alongside
captain Jean de Villiers in the lead-up to the 2015 World Cup.
Coach Meyer said at a media briefing this week: “I think
Cornal has been brilliant for us (since his debut against Wales in Durban
during the June window) ... he’s scored several tries including a brilliant one
against the All Blacks away.
“So in a sense it was the right thing to play JP at outside
centre (in three Tests during June) and give Cornal a chance, and get
The 26-year-old Hendricks – his legs two years younger than
those of Pietersen – has dotted five tries in seven Tests, including one in
each of his last three games in Salta, Perth and Wellington respectively.
That is a promising strike rate in that particular
department, even if some critics may not yet be completely satisfied about his
defensive adhesiveness and positional play on the back foot against top foes.
It may just be that Meyer likes the idea of a slightly more
youthful presence at right wing, given that vastly experienced Bryan Habana on
the left is 31.
Meyer added: “JP only arrived late from Japan but he seems
in the best condition I’ve seen him in for a while. Training-wise he was
brilliant, but I just felt it’s unfair for a guy to come back and jump straight
back into the team ... the same applied to Schalk (Burger).
“JP gives us so many options, and he may get a chance (on
Saturday) either at centre or wing ... he can also cover fullback. It was a
hard decision (to restrict Pietersen to the subs) but I also think
Jan(Serfontein) has been superb in midfield and playing good rugby, making lots
“He’ll also be more effective in an attacking capacity on
“JP on the bench .... 50 Test matches ... that’s a huge
relief and he should get some game time against Australia.
“I see JP more as an outside centre now; it’s also where
he’s been playing in Japan, which to me is a positive.”
The Sharks stalwart in Super Rugby has only previously
played one of his 54 Tests as a reserve – against the United States at the 2007
World Cup when Jake White did not put out a full-strength line-up for the
eventual champions against the minnows.
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