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Jake White shuts down speculation of breakthrough star defecting to Wales

BY Philip Bendon  ·  Thursday Dec 14, 2023

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In the world of rugby, the emergence of young talents often sparks interest from national teams seeking to bolster their squads. One such rising star is 21-year-old South African No.8 Cameron Hanekom, whose exceptional performances in the early rounds of the United Rugby Championship (URC) have caught the attention of Wales.

However, despite speculation and hopes of poaching Hanekom, the Bulls’ Director of rugby, Jake White, has delivered a decisive blow to Warren Gatland’s aspirations.

Hanekom’s stellar displays include a standout performance in the European Champions Cup against Saracens, where he earned the man-of-the-match accolade. His dynamic running and impressive play against seasoned internationals have positioned him as a prospect for the Welsh team, given his qualification through his grandmother.

Gatland had a firsthand look at the young talent when the Bulls visited Cardiff Arms Park in November, fueling speculation about a potential call-up to the Welsh squad for the upcoming Six Nations.

However, White has unequivocally stated that Hanekom is not up for grabs. The No.8 is under contract with the Bulls until 2027, and White is resolute in retaining the promising player. In a statement to the media in Pretoria, White asserted, “There’s no way I’d release him from his contract. I’m planning like I’ll have him around for the next four seasons minimum, which coincides with the remainder of my tenure.”

“It’s our job to ensure he’s looked after and enjoys his rugby here and doesn’t have aspirations to play for anyone else. It’s one of those things.

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“I talk confidently that I don’t see him wanting to go and we certainly don’t want him to go. One season doesn’t make him, though, and I think he appreciates that.” White concluded.

While Hanekom’s performances have not only attracted the attention of Wales but also sparked rumours of potential interest from the Springboks following the retirement of Duane Vermeulen, the young talent remains focused on his current commitments. Despite the allure of representing either South Africa or Wales at the international level, Hanekom is steadfast in keeping his attention on the Bulls and their objectives in the competitive URC.

In a previous interview with WalesOnline, Hanekom expressed his commitment to his current role, stating, “At the moment, my focus is fully on doing my job here at the Bulls. We’re in one of the toughest competitions, and we’ve set ourselves objectives that require my full attention.” He acknowledged the speculation surrounding his international future but emphasised avoiding distractions by staying focused on the task at hand.

While Gatland may be in search of additional options for the Six Nations, Hanekom remains grounded, steering clear of the “cycle of never-ending possibilities” that contemplating international representation might bring.

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“I’ve heard the talking is going around (about Wales). I don’t want to get too carried away at the moment about speaking about what-ifs or what could be.

“Otherwise, I could open my mind up to a cycle of never-ending possibilities that could possibly side-track me from the job in hand. As I said before, I’d rather let the main thing stay the main thing at the moment. And if anything comes in the future, I’ll take it as it comes.”

As the rugby world watches the promising No.8, it seems that, for now, Cameron Hanekom is content to let his performances on the field do the talking.

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