England in SA
Eng target Hougaard again?
Francois Hougaard (Gallo Images)
Johannesburg - Get Hougie... it may sound a little like a movie title but in rugby terms England were fairly successful in pressuring Springbok scrumhalf Francois Hougaard
at breakdowns in the first Test last weekend.
Of course dealing with that particular hazard is part and parcel of a No 9’s lot at the best of times, but it just seemed as if there was a special bid by the tourists to try to get under his skin a little in Durban and perhaps “Get Hougie II” will be sought this Saturday.
The red scrumcap of lock Mouritz Botha, for instance, was sometimes prominent in the quest to make life “claustrophobic”, to say the least, for the tenacious Bulls player - if television evidence is to be believed, a few pleasantries were exchanged every now and then, too, as the Vryheid-born second-rower took the opportunity to banish some rust from his Afrikaans.
Asked by this writer at a media briefing on Wednesday ahead of the second Test at Coca-Cola Park here whether he thought England had gone out of their way to “rattle” his still relatively rookie No 9, coach Heyneke Meyer
replied, certainly not without justification: “I don’t think Francois Hougaard
is the type of player who gets rattled easily.
“I’d look at it from a slightly different perspective; England put a lot of pressure on at the breakdown and the same thing with our kicking game.
“They’d done their homework, all credit to them, so we’ve worked on that and ways to counteract it.
“We need to adjust and I’m very confident Francois will be much better this week - I thought he was superb in other aspects of his play, outside his kicking game.
“Even in the second half (before he was subbed for Ruan Pienaar
- Sport24) last Saturday he changed a few things and became much improved.”
Hougaard had at least one rather obviously laboured clearance kick charged down and was also responsible for an impulsive moment that did not seem to go down well at all in the coaching booth at Mr Price Kings Park when he took a (failed) tap penalty at a time when banging over a goal would have taken the Boks into an important eight-point lead.
Nevertheless, Meyer was right on the button in saying how the eternally effervescent and gutsy Hougaard shone in other departments.
He has that Joost van der Westhuizen-type bulldog spirit when it comes to tackling much bigger foes than his 1.79m and 86kg frame and can be a lethal sniper when not confined to a purely “tactical” sort of game.
As the retired All Black wing Jeff Wilson noted on the latest edition of New Zealand rugby chat show Re: Union, Hougaard is one of relatively few players in the current Bok fold, with its high emphasis on directness and physicality, who can “read opportunities and make something out of nothing”.
Meyer’s wish for Hougaard on the Highveld on Saturday appears pretty obvious: simply a more “complete” performance ...Teams:
15 Pat Lambie, 14 JP Pietersen, 13 Jean de Villiers (captain), 12 Frans Steyn, 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Morné Steyn, 9 Francois Hougaard
, 8 Pierre Spies, 7 Willem Alberts, 6 Marcell Coetzee, 5 Juandré Kruger, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Bismarck du Plessis, 1 Beast Mtawarira
Substitutes: 16 Adriaan Strauss, 17 Werner Kruger , 18 Flip van der Merwe, 19 Keegan Daniel, 20 Ruan Pienaar
, 21 Wynand Olivier, 22 Bjorn BassonEngland:
*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing