Bracing for our biggest test
Sport24 columnist Francois Hougaard (File)
The last game in the Test series against England wasn’t exactly my best. I didn’t really play the way I wanted to, but the conditions were quite difficult. I feel that if I can get continuity at scrumhalf, the more I play there, the better I’ll become.
It’s awesome being back in the Bulls setup and I’m really looking forward to Friday’s game against the Sharks. I played more the way I wanted to against the Cheetahs and am happy to be back playing Super Rugby.
We played well for the first 60 minutes and kind of knew the Cheetahs were going to take chances because they didn’t have anything to lose. I think we didn’t focus enough in the last 20 minutes and let it slip at the end there.
We need to focus on our gameplan and structures and make sure that we do the basics right for the upcoming clash in Durban. We started quite well against the Cheetahs and I think it’s key that we keep that continuity going further into the competition.
I still feel pretty fresh both mentally and physically going into these last few games. I don’t know about the other guys, but I think everyone is still fresh after the international break, and are keen to get back on the pitch and just enjoy themselves.
We have adapted well to the shorter turnaround this week and have put in some hard work as normal and feel ready for Friday’s game. We have had one less training day, but were still afforded a day off – where I switched off from rugby by playing a round of golf.
We are looking forward to a big challenge this week in what is probably our biggest game of the season. The Sharks are going to come out wanting to give us a hiding and we are going to want to do the same, so it’s going to be a very tough and exciting game.
The Sharks must get five points out of the game to go through to the play-offs and when you are going for five points, you tend to play an expansive game. When a team plays like that, there are sometimes mistakes that can cost you at certain points in the game.
Obviously, Patrick Lambie and Willem Alberts are two key players missing for the Sharks. Alberts carries the ball hard at the line and Lambie has been a very stable presence in their side.
But for me it doesn’t make a difference if they play or not, it’s not going to change the way I play my game or how we play ours. We don’t focus too much on other teams.
We are actually in a great position. We are not under too much pressure, but we have a bit of pressure as everything is in our own hands and if we want to make to the play-offs we can go out there and make it happen.
The Stormers have a pretty much dry run into the semi-finals. They don’t have such tough opposition coming. But we run our own race and don’t look too far ahead. If we play to our potential, we will make the semi-finals.
From now on, I feel that it’s not about catching other sides. The Chiefs are far ahead, and have played very well this season, but while they may end top of the log they still have to play a semi-final and potential final.
New Zealand sides play a different brand of rugby to what we play in South Africa. They play with a lot of skill, but that’s not to say it will always make them the better team, as we are also able to play a more expansive game if necessary.
There are no easy games in Super Rugby and whichever side wants it the most will win on the day. You just have to look at the Hurricanes’ win over the Crusaders and the Lions' victory over the Sharks.
Personally, I like a tough challenge. Every rugby player enjoys the big, tough games. You always want to test yourself against the best of the best.
Enjoy the game, and feel free to follow me on Twitter @Francoishougi.Francois Hougaard, educated at Paul Roos Gymnasium, is a regular for the Bulls and Springboks.
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