Cornal Hendricks chats to Sport24
Cape Town - In
an exclusive interview, Cheetahs and Bok wing CORNAL HENDRICKS on overcoming setbacks, World Cup selection and how to beat the Stormers in Bloemfontein on Saturday.
Sport24 asked: You are a late developer
in rugby terms. What did it take to get to the top?
Cornal Hendricks: I had a lot of struggles
in my rugby career when I was younger. I didn’t play Craven Week and never made
the Boland under-16 Grant Khomo Week team. In fact, my first colours were at
under-19 level for Boland. It was difficult to come from a semi-professional
background and move to a professional setup. However, the experience has proved
invaluable, as I have learned about discipline, determination and punctuality.
Talent can only take a player so far, and the rest comes down to hard work and
dedication. I’ve had setbacks in the past, so as a professional rugby player, I
appreciate every opportunity.
Sport24 asked: In 2014, you set out
to play Super Rugby, score the most tries for the Cheetahs and play for the
Springboks. Have you always been someone that dreams big?
Cornal Hendricks: Definitely. I have always
set myself personal goals, and in order to achieve them, I constantly remind
myself that I have to work hard and do the extras on the training field. My
main goal in 2014 was to become a Springbok. To play for your country, you have
to work on your weaknesses. I always need to improve my game as there is a lot
of competition for places. My biggest goal this year is to make the Springbok
World Cup squad. It would be a dream come true. I was 19 years old when I
watched the Springboks win the World Cup in 2007, and remember Bryan Habana
equalling Johan Lomu’s try scoring record.
Sport24 asked: Is it true that Bryan
has taken you under his wing in the Springbok fold?
Cornal Hendricks: Yes. I respect everybody
in the Bok team, but Bryan is the guy I look up to the most. He is an open
individual and I feel like I can speak to him any time of the day. For my first
Test, Bryan saw that I was nervous and he helped me during the video sessions
and assisted me with the on-field calls and running certain lines. I’ve learned
a lot from Bryan’s experiences. He never gives up in a match and works hard in
training. I admire him not just because of who he is or what achievements he’s
got, but because of the type of guy he is.
Sport24 asked: The Cheetahs have
conceded the most points in Super Rugby this season – 300 – and have missed the
second highest number of tackles - 212. Why is that the case?
Cornal Hendricks: I believe the points we
have conceded can be attributed to the kind of rugby we play. With the exciting
backs we have at our disposal, sometimes we get tempted to run from deep and
the opposition then pin us in our own 22. In terms of missed tackles, we have
made a number of mistakes with our one-on-one tackles and double hits. We do
spend a lot of time on our defence, and going forward, we will respect our own
Sport24 asked: Naka Drotske has come
in for criticism this season. Is he feeling the heat?
Cornal Hendricks: Even though we are going
through a tough time at the Cheetahs, coach Naka protects his players and never
shows that he’s outwardly stressed. Some coaches can’t contain their tension
and go off on players, but he’s not like that. What I admire about Naka is that
while we have a game plan in place, he gives us the freedom to do anything we
want on the field. He wants us players to enjoy our rugby and take
responsibility out on the pitch.
Sport24 asked: Having worked with
Paul Treu, will he prove successful at the Stormers?
Cornal Hendricks: Definitely. I was
privileged to be coached by Paul for two years with the Springbok Sevens, and
under his guidance I grew as both a player and a person. From a coaching point
of view, it’s not easy to come into the 15-man game and learn the ropes in a
couple of months. However, I spoke to him when we were on tour in Perth and he
says that he’s getting there in terms of upskilling himself. Coach Paul never
stops working hard, and if he sleeps four hours a day it’s a lot for him. He
loves what he’s doing and that automatically drives players to be their best.
His character, determination and passion is mirrored by the players that he
works with. He would definitely have aspirations to coach the Stormers in the
future. I would really like to see him become a head coach even if it’s at
Currie Cup level.
Sport24 asked: Cheslin Kolbe
continues to divide opinion around the country. Your take?
Cornal Hendricks: I played Sevens with
Cheslin for a year and a half, and he is the smallest guy with the biggest
heart. Although people say that players gain a lot of yards if they run onto
him, he has shown on attack that he is the type of player that can also win you
a game. I don’t believe that Cheslin is too small to play for the Springboks.
His aggression in the tackle stands out for me the most. While he doesn’t have
the height and bulk, you can’t buy Cheslin’s skill, speed and stepping ability.
In my opinion, he is the complete rugby player.
Sport24 asked: The Stormers top the
South African conference. How can they be beaten?
Cornal Hendricks: In order to beat the
Stormers you have to stop their momentum on attack, dominate the contact and
neutralise their formidable defence. However, it’s easier said than done, as
they can play in a number of different ways. They play structured, physical,
kicking and running rugby all in one. To sum it up, they are a four-in-one
team. The Stormers have a team with the best defensive system because players
one to 15 make effective tackles. They have a strong work ethic and their line
speed is good off the mark. On Saturday, we’ll have to be clinical in terms of
our execution if we want to beat the Stormers.
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