'Hougie' has Springbok hunger
Francois Hougaard (Gallo Images)
Pretoria – Simple. What you see is what you get. That is Francois Hougaard.
Humble about his successes, yet confident in his abilities. Quiet-spoken about his fame, but not shy about his hairstyle or shiny set of wheels.
A tough competitor, but still young and enthusiastic enough to enjoy life.
The 22-year-old, who grew up in Robertson, is the newest rugby sensation in South Africa and experts are simply shaking their heads about the magnitude of his talent.
Prior to the weekend’s Test against Australia, his two starts for South Africa had yielded two man-of-the-match awards.
In Blue Bulls country they have been delighted with the progress of “Hougie” as they have seen his talent develop since 2008.
The reason he had been picked on the wing for the past two years is because they simply wanted him on the field.
He will still be giving the Bulls’ opponents a tough time from the scrumhalf position in years to come, but until Fourie du Preez packs his bags at the end of next year, he will be utilised at centre and on the wing.
“My future is definitely at scrumhalf, but with Fourie there I was always going to play second fiddle this year. I did not worry about playing wing as I just wanted to be on the field. And it gave me the opportunity of being on the field with Fourie and to see how he went things,” said Hougaard.
It’s clear that the two think similarly about the game. Just remember in the Super 14 how Hougaard ran through the first gap at the Orlando Stadium before leaving Joe Pietersen for dead.
Hougaard’s respect for Du Preez is well-known, but the reverse is also true.
Du Preez has no hesitation in marketing Hougaard as his successor for the Bok No 9 jersey – and few will argue after what the country had witnessed in recent weeks.
It’s difficult to believe that Hougaard never played Craven Week rugby.
“At least I played wing for Boland’s under-12 team. But I wasn’t picked the following year.”
After that he attended Paul Roos Gymnasium – and did not make it into the Western Province schools team.
Hougaard joined the WP Rugby Institute after school in 2007 and suddenly had the world at his feet.
“I played for the WP under-19 and under-21 sides, as well as one game at scrumhalf for the Currie Cup team. I was also in the SA under-19 team, but as a centre,” said Hougaard.
Talks with Blue Bulls talent-spotter Ian Schwartz followed and Hougaard headed for Pretoria.
“I’m enjoying living in Pretoria, thank you very much. The people are friendly and I like the city. I don’t have any plans to leave,” said Hougaard.
There is little doubt that he can become the complete package. He showed a lot of courage to play the entire Super 14 final with a broken hand.
He also showed his skills and ability by slotting in and excelling at scrumhalf at the highest level. He’s also proud and enthusiastic.
“The Bok jersey is an inspiration. When I pull it on, I just want to play.”