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Habana: Cornal is a 'role model'

Thu, 05 Jun 2014 13:06
Cornal-hendricks-media
In Sevens you don't focus a lot on the high ball
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Rookie wing Cornal Hendricks could not have asked for a better commendation than one coming from record-breaking Springbok Bryan Habana.

Hendricks, the only uncapped player in the Bok squad, will complete the transition from a Sevens superstar to a 15-man international when he plays for South Africa against a World XV at Newlands on Saturday.

The 26-year-old Cheetahs flyer will become a Bok, although an uncapped one, to complete a "life-long dream" by wearing the Green and Gold in the 15-man code.

His call-up, according to Bok teammate Habana, is thoroughly deserved.

"It has been really great watching Super Rugby and seeing how much of our talent is coming through," Habana said in the build-up to Saturday's Newlands outing.

"For me to watch a guy like Cornal, having made the decision to leave Sevens, to see how he has produced in the 15-man code for the Cheetahs and how he has out in those performances week-after-week, has been pretty enjoyable," said the veteran wing - who has scored a record 53 tries in his 95 Tests.

"His progress has made me work a little bit harder, with the realisation that your place might be taken," Habana said, adding: "That is a healthy environment to have.

"Cornal, the step up he has made, has been unbelievable. It is never easy making the change from Sevens to the 15-man code - a lot of guys have struggled before."

While running out at Newlands is going to be a great moment for Hendricks and is family, but Habana felt the biggest the real value is in the message Hendricks' selection send out to youngsters.

"It is great for South Africa when you have players that become role models, players that put in the hard work and effort.

"Even though he was Sevens Player of the Year last year, he didn't rest on his laurels.

"He went back and acquired a different skillset. He worked incredibly hard to achieve success." Habana said, adding that hopefully the energy that Hendricks brings will rub off on his teammates at Newlands on Saturday.

Hendricks, who represented the Boland Cavaliers in various age-group teams and when on to graduate to the senior team, was a member of the South African Sevens team that competed in the 2011/12 and 2012/13 seasons on the IRB Sevens World circuit.

He opted to take up a contract with the Cheetahs to play Super Rugby in 2014 and the rest, as they say, is history.

"It has been a lifelong dream to play for the Springboks and since I moved from Sevens [to the 15-man code] I have set myself goals," the soft-spoken Hendricks said, adding that he realises that the hard work has only just started.

"I really appreciate the opportunity and I am looking forward to Saturday," he said, adding that the adjustment from Sevens to 15-man game is a huge leap.

"As we all know, in Sevens there is a lot of space, but in the 15-man code not."

While he appreciate the skills that Sevens gave him, he admitted that he had to make some big adjustments.

"In Sevens you don't focus a lot on the high ball, so I have paid a lot of attention to the up-and-unders," the Bok rookie said.

He revealed that his place in the starting XV was only confirmed on Wednesday.

"Words can't describe how I feel," the Boland born-and-bred flyer said, adding that his biggest "fan" - his mother Rachel - will be there to experience his Bok debut on Saturday.

By Jan de Koning

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