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    Hougaard chats to Sport24

    2014-03-28 10:00
    Cape Town - Bulls and Springbok scrumhalf Francois Hougaard tackles YOUR questions. He talks the Bulls’ turnaround, what he’s learnt from Fourie du Preez and locking horns with the Chiefs this Saturday...

    David Elsworth asked: You were in bed for nine weeks after your ankle operation. What was the most challenging part of your recovery?

    Francois Hougaard: As someone who’s a little bit hyperactive, the most frustrating part was being forced to sit still. While I used a wheelchair to get around, I relied heavily on the support of my mother and sister during the recovery process. I used my time out of the game to reflect and examine where I could improve from a mental standpoint. I believe it was a blessing in disguise – it offered me perspective and a break from the game, which I feel can very often extend one’s career.

    Tony Schillo Maragen asked: Explain the turnaround in fortunes and the current vibe in the camp. After consecutive losses early on in the campaign, it looked like it was going to be a long season…

    Francois Hougaard: There is a great vibe in the team and it’s lekker to have Dewald Potgieter back on loan from Japan as he is the resident DJ in our dressing room. But on a more serious note, after back-to-back losses, I felt we as players needed to take responsibility and be harder on ourselves. I must say that as a team we really stepped up to the mark this past Saturday. When you beat a champion side like the Sharks; you know you were at your best.

    John van den Berg asked: Would you say your own performances have improved since the first round defeat to the Sharks?

    Francois Hougaard: I think so; I’m working hard on all my individual skills and am endeavouring to get my game to where it should be. While I work hard on the basics, which include my kicking and passing, I believe the rest of my game is played on instinct. Fourie du Preez is the perfect example of a player who sees and exploits those little half gaps. He is a typical game breaker which is something I always aim to emulate. That said, I believe we are totally different players. I’m much more one that takes contact and loves the rough stuff. For instance, there was one occasion on Saturday when I dropped the ball, stopped and was wiped out by Frans Steyn. We spoke post-match and all was cool.

    Manley du Preez asked:  What is your preferred position and has Fourie du Preez helped you become a better scrumhalf?

    Francois Hougaard: Scrumhalf is where I see my long-term future. When Fourie was first-choice nine at the Bulls, in 2010 and 2011, the coach needed me to play on the wing and I was happy to oblige. However, even during that period, I always did my training with an eye on Fourie’s preparation at nine. In terms of my development at scrumhalf, I’m working hard every day and I believe that one can only improve in that position if afforded game time. While No 9 is one of the more difficult positions to play as one is a decision maker and a link between the backs and forwards, it’s a role I relish. In terms of Fourie, I did learn a lot from him as he is an intelligent player.

    Herman Mostert asked: From commentating for SuperSport to coaching, what’s the real reason Victor Matfield returned to the playing field?

    Francois Hougaard: There are a lot of people out there saying that he’s not the player he once was and that he’s past his sell-by-date, but I really believe he is still a great player. He remains a master in the lineouts and his overall work-rate is still impressive. He brings so much experience and maturity to the Bulls side and the guys really look up to him.

    Liza Lucani asked: You have formed a fine partnership with Jacques-Louis Potgieter. How critical is the 9-10 axis in the oval game?

    Francois Hougaard: The role the No 9 and 10 play is pivotal, because they are the decision makers in any team. Furthermore, the half backs decide the territorial battle and offer a side direction on attack and shape on defence. I believe what makes our on-field partnership work well is the fact that we constantly communicate with one another. For example, Jacques-Louis lets me know where he is at all times and I do the same. He is an experienced campaigner and playing brilliant rugby at present. I can only see our partnership progressing as the season continues to evolve.

    Andrew Dunford asked: Your one tattoo reads: “Dream as if you live forever, live as if you die today.” Do those words still hold strong resonance for you since the day they were inked?

    Francois Hougaard: Definitely. I live every day to the full and by doing so I never have any regrets. As a professional sportsman the key is to find balance between work and play. For example, if I trained, played and talked rugby 24-7, seven days I week I think I would go insane. It’s key to, at times, get away from the constant rugby talk. After a heavy game on Saturday, my ideal Sunday would be spent with my girlfriend Chelsea. My free time with her is pretty amazing and the perfect switch-off.

    Nico Burger asked: You come up against the two-time defending champion Chiefs this Saturday. How will you counter the threats they pose and end on the right side of the scoreboard?

    Francois Hougaard: While we are excited for the encounter and are aware that it will be one of our toughest assignments of the season, I believe they need to adapt to us rather than us to them. As far as threats they pose, the Chiefs are one of the best teams come ruck time, on both attack and defence. They also possess players with real skill who have perfected the art of the offload. As a team, we head into the match with an open mind and in the knowledge that another home win will be crucial before heading on tour.

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