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Wednesday, 04 July 2018 10:08

Rugby: Jaden's a Special Talent

Written by  Jonathan Cook

THE word "talent" suggests a natural aptitude or skill. Many schoolboys have it - the challenge is to convert it into something meaningful and lasting.

So far in the sports life of Jaden Hendrikse, the Glenwood schoolboy is ticking those boxes.

Border U12, U13, KZN U16 and U18 plus selection for SA Schools in 2017 suggests that Jaden's rugby career is following a natural progression. On the cricket field, too, the Glenwood lad has caught the eye with inclusion in the Border U13 and KZN U15 teams.


This young man also possesses the character to be teachable, as well as appreciating that while the individual is a vital cog, contributing to the team collective comes first.

Jaden relishes the responsibility of the key number 9 position on the rugby field: "It gives me the opportunity to influence the pace of a game. I also know the laws well and am a good communicator, which is important as a scrumhalf.

"I enjoy being the team goal-kicker and the challenge of supplying quick ball to the backs and connecting with the forwards. As I have grown in experience at first team level I have learnt to exert pressure as well as play under pressure."

To date, the Glenwood first team have had an outstanding season. Jayden is enthusiastic about the prospects ahead as well as the success so far.

"We have a good bond as a team and are enjoying ourselves, I think that is very important. As far as what lies ahead in KZN, our match against DHS is one that we are looking forward to, probably due to the disappointment we felt in the defeat last year. This year we feel there will be a different story to tell."

This year's fixture on Van Heerdens at Durban High School takes place on May 26 and is an FNB Classic Clash that is sure to draw much interest.

At Glenwood, Jaden says director of rugby and first XV head coach Derek Heiberg has been a guiding force in raising his game. His coach certainly has much regard for the number 9.

"Jaden always pushes himself to be better - and that attribute has become infectious to the rest of the team. The thing that not everyone knows about him is his strength of character. Jaden is very resilient and fiercely competitive."

In terms of pure rugby skills, his coach is no less impressed: "Not only does Jaden have an exceptional pass and an exceptional kicking game, he is strong in defence and an outstanding goalkicker. (That said,) Jaden's ability to read a game and identify space are, I feel, his greatest attributes, as these are things you can't coach and are very rare."

As necessary as individual skills are concerned, rugby is a team sport that requires intricate combination play and, crucially, a close team spirit, much of which is developed away from the spotlight of Saturday matches... During the unforgiving hard yards of energy-sapping training sessions - in front of the proverbial man and his dog. The intense concentration and application required in working on combination play, when no one but coach and support staff are present.

It is said that under these circumstances you can identify whether a player has a future outside the school arena - or not. So then, what of Jaden Hendrikse and his contribution off the field, as well as in - and away from - team training?

Coach Heiberg again: "Jaden plays a big role in our team culture. He is the Joker in the pack - and that lightens the mood in the changeroom. At training he works exceptionally hard and is always putting in extra time to work on his positional skills and core-skill fundamentals."

Yet a rugby player does not live in a rugby bubble, isolated from the day-to-day challenges of the world outside the white lines. Coaches, team-mates, supporters and a passion for sport can only take you so far. There are times when a deeper connect outweighs everything.

"Since the first rugby match I ever played, my mom and dad have been my biggest fans, as well as my special auntie, Liezel Hendrikse, my sister Jodie and my younger brother Jordan. I am very grateful for their constant support," says Jaden.

Let's go back to the white lines... (at the time of writing) Jaden's most memorable match so far this year? The answer is immediate. "Definitely Affies. It was a nail-biter, a brilliant game to play in."

Not surprising, really: the May 5 muscle-up in Pretoria had all the ingredients - just 3 points in it (Glenwood 37 Affies 34) with 5 tries to 4  - and for Jaden 15 points with the boot.

So which of the KZN schools does Jaden most admire? "Maritzburg College, because they play as a team and with such passion. With the big crowd support they have, it's especially difficult beating them at home."

Well, on Goldstones, March 24, the Glenwood first XV did just that, outplaying the Red, Black and White in all departments with one Jaden Hendrikse instrumental in a memorable victory.

The 37-12 victory was built around a scrumhalf masterclass: A classic box kick; a deft chip with his left boot into space; precise passing both near and far; the number 9 judiciously pulled the strings that enabled Glenwood to control field position and momentum. And, yes, his goalkicking was as reliable as ever.

The March 31 match against Dale College won 39-0 by Glenwood during the Standard Bank Kearsney College Easter Rugby Festival was also very, very special: "Being the school I attended before Glenwood, it was an emotional occasion for me. We played superbly in that match too."

Sentiment aside, spectators were treated to an exhibition of high-class halfback play. The 19-point Hendrikse haul included a try, 4 conversions and a brace of penalty goals.

So, who among his team-mates does Jaden first turn to for advice (if needs be) in the red-hot heat of battle? "(Fellow backline player) Rynard Jonker because of his depth of knowledge, especially in difficult situations."

During the first and fourth terms of the school year, it is also time to don the cricket whites. Let's hear it from Glenwood director of cricket and first XI head coach Brandon Scullard on Jaden's contribution:

"As the first XI captain, there is no doubting that Jaden is in charge. We often sit and chat and talk through different situations he might face on the field, and work through ideas of how we want to play the game. Jaden is a teachable sportsman, which I think has to be one of the keys to his success in his chosen sports. He is willing to learn and grow, asking questions and learning from mistakes. 

"Jaden is an attacking batsman with a great balance of flair and maturity. He is dynamic between the wickets and a calming presence at the non-striker's end. He can play 360 degrees and displays a head-on approach in transferring pressure onto the bowling side. As an opening bowler, he has the ability to swing the ball and bowl at good pace, using his variation in length to keep the batsmen honest. He is our 'go-to' death bowler, is great under pressure and is unpredictable, making him very tough to score off in the latter stages of the game. Jaden’s execution of these skills is what sets him apart and makes him one of the best death bowlers in KZN."

And - if that's not enough - there are further qualities in the Jaden Hendrikse cricket bag: "Jaden is an incredible athlete, allowing him to be extremely dynamic in the field. This sets the tone for the rest of the team. You'll usually find him in the slips in the earlier stages of a match, and then as the game progresses he will be in the most active areas of the field, long-on and long-off."

And what of Jason the person? Mr Scullard answers immediately: "Jaden is highly respected among his team-mates and throughout the entire school. His achievements to date set him apart from most schoolboys, excelling in cricket and the achievement of national colours in rugby. However it’s in the way that Jaden carries and presents himself that makes him the role model he is. He is a respectable and upstanding scholar, with huge heart and fight on the sportsfield. He command’s his troops on the field with precision and authority. Jaden excels in pressure situations. We see the best in him when the team really needs him. He relishes the tough times on the field, and takes on the responsibility of making a difference with either bat, ball or in the field. When pitted against an opposition batter or bowler, he makes a conscious decision to tackle them head on."

Well said, Brandon, my all-too-brief number of days watching Jaden the cricketer (and rugby player, for that matter) have never failed to disappoint.

But in my book it always come back to character - the persona presented to the public; and the person off the stage, are they consistent? And once again, the assessment of the cricket coach is on par with that of his colleague in the Glenwood sports department, rugby's Mr Heiberg.

"Off the cricket field, Jaden gives a lot of energy in training sessions and has the attention of the boys when speaking in the changeroom and practices. His good sense of humour allows him to integrate smoothly back into enjoying a good laugh with boys, increasing that brotherly bond within the group."

While Jaden is not too sure as yet what he may pursue in terms of his post-school studies, there is no uncertainty as far as his sports aspirations are concerned.

"I would like to play rugby professionally."

The indications are that cricket will, unfortunately, have to take a back seat. To be fair, in the modern-day, outstanding all-round sportsmen have to specialise at some point. Nevertheless, the fact that Jaden hasn't taken the specialist route too early will stand his rugby talent in good stead.

Enough said. The vision is clear. Let's hope the Jaden Hendrikse rugby journey has only just begun.

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