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Jaden Hendrikse realises ‘childhood dream’ against All Blacks as Springboks ponder selection to repeat heroics

Mbombela – Jaden Hendrikse had barely taken his seat on the replacements’ bench before kick-off against the All Blacks when he was taking his tracksuit off to replace Faf de Klerk and line up against his childhood hero.

The 22-year-old scrumhalf grew up watching Aaron Smith on TV, and 40 seconds into Saturday’s Rugby Championship opener in Nelspruit, De Klerk was knocked out when his jaw collided with the knee of Beauden Barrett, and Hendrikse was on.

“It was very unexpected! You obviously don’t plan to be involved so soon, and as I was getting on to the field I was getting all these messages (from the coaches)…” Hendrikse said after the Boks’ 26-10 win on Saturday.

“But it was actually fairly easy to settle down because for me it is always about just staying in the zone, shutting out the noise and sticking to what works for me.

“That said, I was obviously aware that I was playing against one of my heroes in Aaron Smith and it is such a privilege for me to have done that. To play against the All Blacks was a childhood dream of mine and suddenly it was happening …

“And when I saw Faf making an appearance on the sideline I felt a little boost, just knowing that he was okay because it had looked bad.”

Hendrikse ended up playing the whole match, and he did so with calmness and efficiency, and he surely will continue this Saturday at Ellis Park where he left off at Mbombela.

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His coach, Jacques Nienaber was certainly impressed.

“I thought Jaden stepped up well,” Nienaber said. “We backed Jaden in the last Test match against Wales and he wasn’t nervous at all when he came on.”

“We’re fortunate that we have quality scrumhalves with players like Faf, Jaden, Cobus Reinach, Herschel Jantjies and Grant Williams. There’s a lot of competition in the squad.”

There is a growing possibility that for this second Test Nienaber will introduce the veteran pair of Duane Vermeulen and Frans Steyn in some form, while he also has a tricky decision to make at right wing.

Vermeulen has completed a fortnight of training with the team, and Steyn has been going for even longer, and at some point Nienaber needs to get them going with game time and roles off the bench this week are more than possible.

What looks certain is that Kurt-Lee Arendse has joined Cheslin Kolbe on the sidelines after having played a good game in replacing his hero.

Arendse had shown that he is indeed a like-for-like replacement for Kolbe with a well-taken try and some tenacious tackling, only to have a most unfortunate end to the game when an aerial collision not only injured him but had him red carded.

The 36-year-old Vermeulen sat out the series against Wales because of a knee problem, while Steyn did not participate because of a hamstring injury picked up in the Currie Cup.

🕯️ More Lukhanyo Am magic in the Rugby Championship 🕯️

The last time the All Blacks faced the Springboks, the centre levelled up 🥶

— SuperSport 🏆 (@SuperSportTV) August 3, 2022

Steyn recovered some time ago and has been working on his conditioning and with Arendse and Kolbe both now missing from the back three permutations, the 35-year-old is becoming increasingly relevant.

Arendse left the pitch on a medic cart after colliding in the air with Barrett, while De Klerk knocked himself out in tackling the same player after just 40 seconds of the game, and both will have undergone concussion testing yesterday.

Nienaber said in his post-match press conference that he would not look for a replacement for Arendse from outside his 42-man squad, and that Warrick Gelant could possibly do a job there, while he has used Jesse Kriel on the right wing on a few occasions, including last year’s endof-year tour.

“It looks like we have lost KurtLee… we’ll see what happens there and have a discussion around that on Sunday evening,” Nienaber said.

“I’ll sit with the selectors but we’ve still got Jesse, who we’ve played there last year and in 2018, and he has started there against New Zealand, so he’s a guy who can play there for us.

“We’ve got Warrick Gelant who can help us there, there are a couple of options we have available.”