Ken Borland

By Ken Borland

Journalist


Big interview: Lions’ Jordan Hendrikse looks ahead to second URC campaign

'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.'


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.

Also read: URC a hit with fans as millions tune in – All the TV numbers

“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.

Flyhalf pool

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.

Read more: Flyhalf crisis – Boks’ worst fears realised with Pollard’s withdrawal

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.

Jordan Hendrikse
Jordan Hendrikse has a good boot too. Picture: Lee Warren/Gallo Images

“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.

Experience in the shop

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.

Ellis Park bakery

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.

Also read: Hendrikse keen to spark good Bok partnership with Willemse

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’s it’s all up to God’s will and plan,” Hendrikse Junior said.

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