Exodus of Boks puts new Cheetahs coach Smith in a fix
NEW Cheetahs coach Franco Smith has had to quickly become accustomed to the realities of his new franchise, with word that Springbok Willie le Roux is heading to Durban to join the Sharks.
But Smith’s hopes of retaining Springboks are set to be dashed as Cornal Hendricks looks set to be the next Bok to leave Bloemfontein, although he hasn’t decided which province he will join next season.
According to Bloemfontein newspaper Die Volksblad, Le Roux’s move to the Sharks should be completed in the next few days with the Bok fullback likely to play rugby in Japan during the Currie Cup season before heading back to Durban for next year’s Super Rugby season.
The Sharks announced last week that they had signed Joe Pietersen from the Cheetahs as well. Pietersen has been playing both flyhalf and fullback for the Cheetahs this season.
The loss of Hendricks will be seen as another massive blow for the Cheetahs franchise, especially as the winger became a Springbok while in Bloemfontein after spells with the Boland Cavaliers and Springbok Sevens teams respectively.
Hendricks is known to be one of the players SA Rugby have been targeting to keep in South Africa and wherever he goes, it is likely the deal will include his Springbok contract to keep him within the country’s borders.
Two independent sources have confirmed that Hendricks has asked for, and been granted permission to negotiate with other teams as his deal ends in October this year. Normally players would have to wait for the 1 July transfer season to open, but the Cheetahs decided to grant his request to finalise his future earlier, and seem to have accepted that he will be leaving later this year.
While it was not divulged which unions are currently negotiating for the Springbok star, the Bulls, Stormers and Sharks have all been known to be interested in a player of his quality.
The Cheetahs still have Raymond Rhule on their books as well as Clayton Blommetjies and Sergeal Pietersen, although Rhule’s contract is also up for renewal and the Cheetahs face some stiff competition from the Bulls for his signature.
The Cheetahs did sign young Sharks pivot Fred Zeilinga for the Currie Cup after losing Pietersen to Durban, but are likely to rely heavily on the bulk of the Varsity Cup-winning Shimlas side — which Smith coached to victory — for the Currie Cup campaign.
Hendricks is set to announce his move in the next few weeks when negotiations have been finalised. — SuperSport