Rugby

Force chasing Hougaard

2009-04-30 09:12
Derick Hougaard (File)

Perth - Derick Hougaard made his Test debut for South Africa against Uruguay at the Subiaco Oval during the 2003 World Cup and, if the Force has its way, the ground could become his permanent base next year.

The Force is believed to be chasing Hougaard as a marquee import to replace Brumbies-bound Matt Giteau next year, reports The Australian newspaper website.

Hougaard, who played 43 Super rugby games for the Bulls and eight Tests for the Springboks, is playing for English club Leicester.

Apart from his playmaking skills, Hougaard is also an excellent goal-kicker, having scored 161 points in 14 matches in the Bulls' Super 14 title-winning season in 2007.

The Force had previously talked to another South African flyhalf, the Stormers' Peter Grant, as part of its search for a replacement for Giteau.

It is imperative the Force recruits a dominant flyhalf, particularly if utility back James O'Connor follows Giteau to the Brumbies.

Even if O'Connor stayed in Perth, the Force would rather play him at inside centre or fullback than flyhalf at this early stage of his career.

The Force is expected to receive a boost with the re-signing of Wallabies number eight Richard Brown, who had been chased by the other three Australian teams - Brumbies, Waratahs and Reds.

And the Force looks set to be boosted by the recruitment of Waratahs halfback Brett Sheehan and second-rower Will Caldwell, who are seriously considering competitive offers from the west.

Sheehan is the type of physical halfback that Force coach John Mitchell likes, while Caldwell, a quiet achiever at the Waratahs, would add experience to the tight five.

The arrival of Sheehan in Perth would most likely see the departure of Josh Valentine, who may attract interest in Canberra.

The Force needs to rebuild its roster following the impending departure of Giteau, fullback Drew Mitchell, winger Scott Staniforth, inside centre Junior Pelesasa, tighthead prop Ben Castle and backrower Taimati Horua.

There are fears a mass exodus of players could cause the Force to fall apart.

But if it can sign players such as Brown, Sheehan and Caldwell, it will give the Force confidence.

Mitchell and the starting XV flew out of Perth yesterday for the Force's two-game tour of South Africa where it will look to continue its unlikley bid for a place in the play-offs.

A round of upsets last weekend has left the Force in sixth place on the table with 28 points, just three fewer than the fourth-placed Sharks.

The Reds' upset win against the Blues and the Cheetahs' surprise victory over the Crusaders has certainly helped the Force's play-off chances.

The Force has won three of its past four games, including a record 55-14 win against the Lions in Perth last Friday.

If the Force can maintain its momentum in South Africa against the Bulls and Stormers, it could potentially secure a semi-final spot with a home win against the Highlanders in the last round.

"The rugby gods were pretty good to us on the weekend, which is unusual," Mitchell said.

"But nothing has changed for us. We've just got to keep ourselves alive.

"I guess it is very much a must-win scenario from now on. That's just the way the competition has panned out and I guess we are not the only team in that situation.

"We've got to win. It's as simple as that. Nothing changes.

"We'll continue to be attack-focused in our approach. We've enjoyed seeing the guys play some super rugby over the last few weeks." Brown, who missed the Force's win against the Lions with an ankle injury, has been included in the 26-man party.

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