Rugby Championship

Boks: Cornal endangering JP?

2014-09-25 12:35
Cornal Hendricks (Getty)

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 continuity there.”

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 of tackles.

“He’ll also be more effective in an attacking capacity on dry fields.

“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.

*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing


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