The talented Hendrikse scaled every height in schoolboy rugby, quickly making the transition to the South African national age-group teams and winning South Africa international tournaments as an 18-year-old. He played for the SA Schools A side in 2019, and last year for the Junior Springboks.
In 2021 – a few days after his 20th birthday on 28 June – Hendrikse played against the British & Irish Lions, a tough game for the Emirates Lions who were on the backfoot against the tourists from the north, but their young No 10, facing some of the best players in the world, looked like he had been playing professionally for 10 years.
While the Emirates Lions took a beating against the strong touring side, Hendrikse was all class in a performance that spoke to his development as a player, as much as it did his maturity.
Hendrikse wanted to translate his form into the Vodacom United Rugby Championship, but injury struck, and he spent a good portion of the first half of the tournament on the sidelines.
It was his first major setback as a rugby player, but the 20-year-old sought positives from the break and vowed to return stronger and better for the experience. It was also an immediate reminder at how quickly it can all end.
Hendrikse’s older sibling Jaden, who plays scrumhalf for the Cell C Sharks and has been capped for South Africa, experienced a similar injury with the Springboks. Both brothers, in their infancy as professional players, have experienced the highs of playing against the famed British & Irish Lions and the lows of serious injury in the space of a few months.
But both Hendrikse brothers returned stronger and more committed to the game they have chosen as a profession.
Jordan admitted in interviews that there was internal doubt during his injury on whether he would return as confident as he had always been on a rugby field. Injury does that to any player.
A couple of days after the interview, Hendrikse delivered the calmest and cleanest kicking display to inspire the Emirates Lions to turn a 21-10 deficit into a 23-21 win against Irish powerhouse Munster.
Hendrikse’s performance against Munster was indicative of his aspirations for the season and also his search for consistency in performance.
“Being consistent, week in week out, especially after coming back from injury, that’s the focus,” said Hendrikse.
“And then getting better every game, that’s all you want as a player: to make fewer mistakes and improve on your personal game. This positively affects your team too.”
Hendrikse made these statements in the week of the Emirates Lions’ win against Munster when he kicked the winning points.
“Mentally I was in a great space before the injury, and you get knocked very quickly from flying high to riding low,” said Hendrikse. “I thought, will I be the same Jordan or will I be better?”
The answer, against Munster and in every VURC match since, is that Hendrikse is very much the same talented player, but mentally even stronger than the flamboyant kid who was kicking 60m penalty goals at altitude in his rookie professional year.
The Emirates Lions, who beat the Dragons in Wales in their final Vodacom URC match of the season, may not have qualified for the playoffs, but Hendrikse knows that each performance is another opportunity to make another statement to the national selectors, and this weekend he will get yet another opportunity in green and gold.