Twenty-year-old scrumhalf Jaden Hendrikse has been pushed front and centre by the Sharks and will be given an opportunity to prove himself under pressure in the Currie Cup final against the Bulls in Pretoria on Saturday.
It has been an age since South Africa had such riches at scrumhalf, with World Cup star Faf de Klerk and Cobus Reinach overseas, Ivan van Zyl being consistently slick for the Bulls and Herschel Jantjies (WP) and Embrose Papier (Bulls) finding some form as well. And then there are the young talents at the Sharks: Sanele Nohamba has just turned 22 and is an exciting prospect even though he will be on the bench for the final, while Hendrikse is rated by coach Sean Everitt as the next big thing.
“Jaden was actually supposed to start last weekend (in the Sharks’ semifinal against Western Province) but he had a stomach ailment for most of the week so we thought it best to put him on the bench,” Everitt said after including Hendrikse in the only change to his starting line-up for this weekend’s clash.
“He’s a good decision-maker at the base, a good defender and he even gets turnovers at the breakdown, but the main thing with him is his game-management. He conducts the play really well.
“Jaden is a tremendous talent. He’s a former nominee for World Junior Player of the Year for a reason and he has big game experience at U-20 level.”
One of the great successes of the Sharks’ game plan at Newlands last week was the way they demolished the Western Province maul, which was one of the home side’s key building blocks of success this season.
There are a few more Bulls buildings that the Sharks will need to demolish, however, because their opposition has a greater range of attacking weapons than last week’s rivals. But being able to negate the Bulls’ lineout drive will stand the KwaZulu-Natalians in good stead.
“We haven’t had to train so many mauls this week because we had so many at the weekend,” Everitt said.
“But we expect the Bulls to maul. They have their banker lineout jumpers and Russell Winter (forwards coach) has done a good job, but if you go back to when we beat them here in Durban, we stopped them at the drive. The pack stood up to them really well and there’s no reason they can’t do it again.”