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Ken Borland

Big season looms for Hendrikse & for the Lions 0

Posted on October 19, 2022 by Ken

A big season looms for the Lions’ exciting young flyhalf Jordan Hendrikse and for the 21-year-old, the 2022/23 season will be all about consistency.

Hendrikse fractured his ankle in just the second game of last season’s United Rugby Championship, and his return to the side in February coincided with a turnaround in fortunes for the Lions, who surprised many by finishing 12th in the final standings. He played 12 URC games for the Lions and started in 11 of them.

“Our focus as a team is to improve and make the top-10 this time. Of course the ultimate goal is to win the competition, but as players we also want to see development and improvement as individuals, and as a team and union,” Hendrikse told The Citizen.

“Towards the end of the competition we were able to get into the swing of things and adapted very well. We had a four-game winning streak at home and we finished well.

“I definitely enjoyed the competition, it was a very nice experience, my first senior tournament. It was fantastic to experience the atmosphere in all sorts of stadiums, with fans back, and to play against world-class players.

“Injury is always a part of rugby, but it knocked me off-course a bit last season. For me, this coming season is all about being consistent, I just want to get better than the season before in all the things I do.

“I will push my positives to the limit and pick up where I need to in terms of negatives. I’m going to be chasing those one-percenters,” Hendrikse said.

As the current Rugby Championship has shown with an off-form Handre Pollard and an underdone Elton Jantjies both injured, Damian Willemse being inexperienced at No.10 and largely playing inside centre at the Stormers, and Johan Goosen just making his way back from serious injury, South Africa’s pool at flyhalf is not exactly extensive.

But the way Hendrikse was thrown in the deep end by the Lions and certainly did not sink, says much for the former Junior Springbok’s ability and temperament. He has also shown a maturity beyond his years in his all-round game.

“I would definitely say my kicking game is my greatest strength, although it gets hard sometimes in certain conditions and pitches. Defensively, I think I’m strong, I bring physicality at flyhalf.

“I’m a 10 that loves to take the ball to the line, I’m not scared to get my hands dirty. I’ll get in the rucks or beat players with ball-in-hand, I don’t mind.

“But I would like to read the game better. Playing flyhalf is all about being in control, being in charge and having that aura for the team.

“I’d like to bring my positive mindset and calmness under pressure to the team,” the 1.86m tall youngster said.

As they say, you cannot buy experience in the shop and Hendrikse has been forewarned and forearmed when it comes to playing in Europe again in the coming season.

“We had to tour overseas first last season and it was a positive experience for when we go back this winter [northern hemisphere]. They are tough conditions, some places are very windy, others are cold and wet.

“We’re also playing on different fields – 4G pitches – which we are not used to. We’re used to it being dry inland and moist on the coast. So it’s a massive change.

“And we’re up against world-class players who have different styles of playing rugby. Ireland are very attacking, Wales and Italy are more physical.

“And now that we’ll be playing in the EPCR Challenge Cup, we’ll be coming up against French teams, who play more physical and slower rugby.

“We had new coaches come in just a month before leaving for overseas last season, and it takes time and patience before things started clicking. Their teams struggled coming over here too,” Hendrikse pointed out.

The bakery at Ellis Park in Doornfontein is trying to produce a quality product using some fairly raw ingredients and they need to get the texture and taste of their rugby, and those all-important finishes, just right.

There will be a familiar face back in former Springbok fullback Andries Coetzee, and the likes of Ruan Dreyer and Jaco Kriel are still around up front. Lions fans will be hoping the gifted Hendrikse can bring something more exotic as a playmaker, especially since his taste of Sevens rugby with the Blitzboks earlier this year.

“Playing Sevens was definitely an eye-opener and an immense experience,” Hendrikse said. “Just the skill level and small details, it will definitely benefit me in XVs and I would certainly look forward to the opportunity to play Sevens again if it arises.”

On Saturday, Hendrikse was watching his older, by 15 months, brother Jaden playing for the Springboks in Sydney.

The scrumhalf is producing his own deli of special goods down in Durban with the Sharks, but Jordan hopes one day the two brothers from King William’s Town and then Glenwood High School will be able to play together as a halfback pairing.

“I’m immensely proud of Jaden and I love him to bits. We were very competitive growing up, we would keep pushing ourselves. But we watch each other’s games and give each other input.

“We’re just grateful for what we have and definitely, in the future, the plan is to play together. We have that bond, call it instinct, but we see eye-to-eye and we share vision. But it’s all up to God’s will and plan,” Hendrikse Junior said.

‘Focus on getting your job done’ key to SA success – Markram 0

Posted on June 28, 2021 by Ken

Proteas opener Aiden Markram said on Wednesday that a “focus on getting your job done” was a major reason for South Africa’s overwhelming success in the first Test against the West Indies at St Lucia, and it is a habit they don’t want to get out of as the second Test looms at the same venue on Friday.

South Africa beat the West Indies by an innings and 63 runs in the first Test in what was one of their best all-round performances for a long time. The bowlers were outstanding and the batsmen fought hard on a lively pitch. It was also the Proteas’ first win on away soil since beating England by 340 runs at Trent Bridge in Nottingham in July 2017, ending a run of nine straight defeats on the road.

“It’s our first away Test win in just about four years, so it was exciting and nice to be a part of. It’s been a long time coming and it will re-instil a bit of belief that we can still compete away from home. We came across a lot of foreign things we had to overcome, like a strong breeze at the ground, and at one end it was quite an uphill run for the bowlers into the wind, and they had a different ball to what they’re used to.

“But for all of us, the focus was just on getting your job done, no excuses and empty the tank. Conditions were difficult, but hopefully we can now win in foreign conditions more consistently. It’s going to be tough to better the performance in the first Test, but I’m positive there is more in us. We’ve set standards that we must now live by and operate at that standard. I’m confident we’ll put up another good fight,” Markram said.

It is often said that teams take on the personality of their captain, and there is no bigger fighter, no one more determined on the field, than new skipper Dean Elgar.

“Dean has been brilliant as captain now for the last three weeks and it’s great to have someone really experienced like him to lead us, a pretty young team. He has realigned everyone and is driving those standards that will more often than not lead to good results. It’s black or white with Dean, you always know where you’re standing and he’s the perfect man for the job at the moment,” Markram said.

Anxious times for Coetzee as his plans are undermined 0

Posted on May 09, 2017 by Ken


The way his plans for his crucial second year as Springbok coach are being undermined by injuries and overseas departures, Allister Coetzee could be forgiven for starting to take Valium as his appointment with the feisty French looms ever nearer.

Coetzee was spared the axe by SA Rugby after a 2016 campaign that had most Springbok fans in need of post-traumatic stress drugs, and he has also been given more support in terms of more experienced assistants and training camps during SuperRugby.

But there is little doubt that Coetzee needs to produce a series win from the three Tests against France in Pretoria, Durban and Johannesburg in June if he is to still be Springbok coach for the Rugby Championship. There are ongoing shadowy moves involving Rassie Erasmus that will have Coetzee perpetually looking over his shoulder.

But the problems Coetzee already faces in terms of selecting his squad would be enough to send someone of less tenacious character running for the hills.

A run of injuries has sidelined his two most capped local flyhalves and his first three choices for inside centre. Another midfield star has decided to pursue his career overseas as has a potential scrumhalf candidate, a position in which Coetzee has real problems.

In fact, if you run through the list of names of local players currently available for the backline, it makes gloomy reading.

And thus we come to the thorny issue of overseas players. The new 30 caps criterion of SA Rugby only comes into effect from July 1, so there are obviously going to be a bunch of foreign-based players included for the French series.

If one had to pick a backline only from the ranks of the SuperRugby franchises, it would be sorely lacking in the experience which is so important at Test level.

On current form, the uncapped Ross Cronje should probably be the starting scrumhalf, but Faf de Klerk, although suffering from the vagaries of form at the moment, must surely feature somewhere, especially since he played in 11 of the Springboks’ 12 Tests last year.

Cobus Reinach is the scrumhalf heading overseas and will be ineligible after July 1 because he only has 10 caps.

At flyhalf, Coetzee is faced with a repeat of last year’s problem when he was without Pat Lambie and Handre Pollard. The Bulls man is a non-starter for the French series, leaving the coach to gamble between a rusty Lambie or a frustrating Elton Jantjies, a man who looks top-class in SuperRugby but has been as hesitant as a vegan in a butchery at Test level.

But hopefully there will be a change in approach from the Springboks this year, a move towards the up-tempo, ball-in-hand style of the Lions, and Jantjies will surely feel more comfortable in that sort of environment.

The Springboks have a history of throwing Lambie into battle when in need of a rescue act, but it would surely not be fair on the 26-year-old to toss him back into Test action after probably just three SuperRugby games.

Curwin Bosch has burst on to the scene for the Sharks, but it would be heaping too much pressure on to the 19-year-old’s shoulders to expect him to play flyhalf for the Springboks, especially when you have Jantjies to call on.

Bosch could well be selected at fullback for the Springboks, however, with Jesse Kriel and Warrick Gelant only producing glimpses of form for the Bulls.

Lwazi Mvovo is likely to be on the one wing for the Springboks and Courtnall Skosan certainly looks like someone who can be relied upon if called to make the step up. The local depth at wing is not great, with Ruan Combrinck out with a long-term injury and Seabelo Senatla and Sergeal Petersen battling to get on the field.

One does not like to dwell on the defensive frailties of players, but for all their brilliance with ball in hand, Jamba Ulengo, Travis Ismaiel, Dillyn Leyds and Cheslin Kolbe have all shown weaknesses in defence that Test opposition will definitely focus on.

Lionel Mapoe and Francois Venter have put their hands up for the outside centre berth, but Rohan Janse van Rensburg, Damian de Allende and Juan de Jongh, the last three players to wear the number 12 jersey for the Springboks, are all currently injured.

De Allende and De Jongh might return to action just before the June international window, but the confirmation last week that Jan Serfontein has given in to the agents flashing lots of numbers on their calculators and will head overseas is most untimely.

While Serfontein can still play against France, will Coetzee be willing to make an investment in a player who will be stranded on 29 Tests, if he plays all three internationals in June, and therefore won’t be eligible for selection for the Rugby Championship?

While I fully understand the reasons players leave to perform overseas, I have it on good authority that Serfontein is managed by an agency that only gets a commission if they land the player an overseas deal.

So obviously his agent was unlikely to recommend the improved contracts that were on the table from both the Bulls and SA Rugby. In fact, there was an unconfirmed report from France that Serfontein had already signed a three-year deal with Montpellier back in January.

Surely SA Rugby could have a case for negotiating in bad faith against the Essentially sports management company and cancel their agents’ licence? This same company hardly covered their names in glory with the way they handled the departures of SA cricketers Rilee Rossouw and Kyle Abbott on Kolpak deals earlier this year …

That leaves someone like the uncapped Burger Odendaal as the frontrunner for the inside centre position and as tempting as it may be to pick a backline purely from SuperRugby players, their total number of caps might then amount to less than 50.

Which means there is the likelihood that the likes of Bryan Habana, Francois Hougaard, Willie le Roux, JP Pietersen, Ruan Pienaar and Morne and Francois Steyn will be winging their way back to South Africa in an effort to make up for their undistinguished recent efforts for the Springboks.

One cannot blame desperate coaches for trying anything to save their own skins, but bringing back all those former stars would surely be a retrograde step in terms of the future of Springbok rugby.

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