Pretoria - Springbok scrumhalf Francois Hougaard will only take the field again when he is 100% ready to play, and not before.
According to the supersport.com website, Hougaard has been the subject of much confusion over the past six weeks, as he has been cleared four times, only to be left out of the Bulls squad for their fixtures in the Super Rugby tournament.
This comes after a tour where Hougaard, clearly struggling with an injury, was on the bench for the game against the Blues and Crusaders, but didn’t make it onto the field in Christchurch, only to be sent home a day later to recover.
There was a hope he would have recovered when the team returned from their tour and after the bye, but for the past two weeks he has been cleared, only to fail a fitness test on the Wednesday before the game.
This brings his time on the sidelines to six weeks, something the Bulls say they could not have predicted, nor managed any differently.
Bulls team doctor Org Strauss stressed the difficult nature of the ankle injury, and the fact that it has to be treated correctly or it could be long term damage for Hougaard.
“He has an overuse injury - something that has come over a long time and developed into the problem he has at the moment,” Strauss said.
“The fibula - the outside bone on his ankle has bone edema, and we found that the tendon on the outside knob on his ankle has tendonitis in it. We have been treating it and this week he was given a cortisone injection to help with the recovery.
“There has already been a big improvement since the injection, but we felt that this Saturday was too soon to play him.”
The Bulls decision was probably made easier by the good form that Hougaard’s replacement, Jano Vermaak is in at the moment. But Strauss stressed it was a difficult injury to manage and his medical team would only give Hougaard the green light if they felt he was over the injury.
“We believe he will be ready soon. But he is a vital player for us, so we want to be 100% certain.”
Hougaard is also likely to play a prominent role in the Springboks’ June Test series and the Rugby Championship later this year, so the cautious diagnosis is understandable.