Spicy Hougie v Sarel battle

2012-05-08 13:00

Cape Town - Two of the most slippery and mercurial scrumhalves in Super Rugby are set to lock horns in Sydney on Friday.

The anticipated match-up between the Bulls’ Springbok Francois Hougaard and Sarel Pretorius, the former Cheetahs try-scoring factor who has made a new home for himself at the Waratahs this season, could be one of the highlights of the encounter.

Both are attack-minded, impulsive players for whom “sniping” comes naturally, and if Pretorius gets the starting nod against South African foes he knows so well at Sydney Football Stadium, he may be particularly keen to remind folk in the land of his birth that he is capable of mixing it against the very best from his ex-homeland.

There is strong talk in Sydney that Pretorius will be just one beneficiary of a significant revamp to the ‘Tahs team for Friday’s fixture (11:40 SA time), following their rather blunt, muted performance in losing 23-6 to the Brumbies in Canberra last time out.

Pretorius, the 28-year-old from Reitz who was joint top try-scorer in 2011 with the Bulls’ Bjorn Basson - another player he ought to encounter in the enemy ranks this time - is expected to be promoted off the bench at the expense of Brendan McKibbin.

The home side seek some “fuel injection” after failing to cross the whitewash against Jake White’s Brumbies, and believe Pretorius could play a key role in providing it.

If they have done their homework this week, they will be aware that the Bulls have had some defensive issues over the last few games, despite maintaining a good winning streak.

Certainly fielding a scrumhalf of Pretorius’s enterprise will be a good test not only of direct opponent Hougaard’s ability to police him, but also perhaps bring back into sharp focus the defensive game of No 8 Pierre Spies ... many observers remain adamant that the muscular Bulls captain is well less convincing going “backwards” than he is when rampaging with ball in hand.

There can be little doubt that the exciting, eternally full-blooded Hougaard, four years rival No 9 Pretorius’s junior, has been influential in the Bulls’ status among the front-runners in Super Rugby this season, despite some fears at the end of last year that they might hit choppy waters in a “rebuilding” phase for them.

But as the international season draws closer, this is another ideal chance for him to emphasise to national coach Heyneke Meyer - still thought to be considering an ongoing Bok role for veteran Fourie du Preez - that he can match his unquestioned skill and enthusiasm levels with an ability to show calm generalship and option-taking acumen of the kind Du Preez remains so renowned for.

In what shapes up on paper, to a good extent, as a battle of Duracell bunnies at scrumhalf on Friday, Hougaard sometimes shrewdly “taking the pace off the game” or resorting at correct times to in-form halfback partner Morne Steyn to dictate matters judiciously with his boot if things get helter-skelter, may well help the Bulls tighten their defensive act and thus have an even better chance of winning their second assignment abroad.

At the same time, the Bulls’ own, impressive current efficiency as an attacking unit means that compatriot Pretorius will be under pressure to bury perceptions here, as he abandoned our shores, that he is not the most willing or able customer in the tackling department ...

*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing


  • Acta - 2012-05-08 13:11

    Can't wait, will be a Good one!! Think Hougaard is better, but Pretoruis can do some serious damage. Will def keeping an eye. :)))

  • Grant - 2012-05-08 13:15

    I am a huge fan of both these scrumhalves....leave Fourie Du Preez and play these 2 for the Boks....they will have the opposition guessing all day long!!

      Timothy - 2012-05-09 01:55

      You would be mad to leave out the experience and tactical genius of Fourie Dup. The man is only 30 he can win another worldcup for SA. Francois should be played on the wing thats where he is best. Sarel hasn't done anything special this year and does not deserve to be selected on his current form. Sadly the move to the Tahs has backfired for him as he sits on the bench every game and only comes on in the last 10-20 mins. He would have been awesome at the Cheetahs this year. Some tough choices to make if you are the Springbok coach

      jacquesalthea.knotter - 2012-05-09 13:17

      I agree with you fully .Grant

  • Saffa - 2012-05-08 13:30

    Hougie's defence is a helluvalot better than Sarel's, whilst Sareltjie wins the sniping battle. Should be a good contest in any event. Bulls should win this game - they really should.

      Hanjo - 2012-05-08 13:36

      Saffa, your take on Venter and Sadie as the centre combo? surely that's quite experimental...I know Venter was a forced change, but why bring in Sadie just for the sake of rotation when JJ has looked SO good...that would be my only area of concern if I were a Bulls supporter.

      Jason - 2012-05-08 13:38

      Dont be so sure! Should? Yes! Will? not so sure, different team that trudged through toffee against the Brumbies! Smarting to....

      Saffa - 2012-05-08 13:50

      @Hanjo - JJ was poor in defence in last week - really poor. It was a weakness of his in the Cape as well (although down here he played within a far more structured defensive system that all the Cape teams use from juniors up) so he wasn't shown up as much IMHO. I rate JJ wayyyyyyyyyyy above Sadie (always have), but I reckon 'rotation' is just a kinder word for 'poor defensive effort being punished and wanting to perform better in defence against the Tah's ALTHOUGH: Mr Sadie's D is not all that either.......but I like young Venter. Thing is, with such an untested combo against a 'traditionally' very structured team like the Tahs (although that structure has gone to pot this season) I can't see the Bulls running the ball a la Rebels game. I can see Steyn and Hougaard doing a LOT of kicking, which might keep the centres out of the game a little. Interesting combo though.....and I hope for Sadie's sake his confidence comes back quickly.

      Hanjo - 2012-05-08 14:17

      interesting take on things Saffa, I agree, I like JJ, like Venter and I'm questioning just how good Sadie is...I get JJ was poor on defense, but the fact that he is/was playing out of position may have added to his struggles...I think the new combo will be tested, Tom Carter is a very direct centre who one needs to keep a close eye on...but this should all result in interesting viewing.

      Rohann - 2012-05-08 14:18

      To me its between Hougie and Genia battling it out for best 9 in the world at the moment. What's your guys take on that?

      Rohann - 2012-05-08 14:23

      Or maybe Mike Phillips?

      Johan - 2012-05-08 16:47

      @ Fake Johan - Gebruik jou "eie Profile" as jy so beledigend will wees Johan Spies/Saffa Spies/Fake Stomkaap/Aandagsoeker/Idiot!!! Sit sommer jou regte ou Fotokie op Facebook (kan sommer die prentjie van 'n boks gebruik) sodat ons jou so bietjie kan bykom met die vuiste sou ons jou op straat raakloop!!! Jy irriteer almal en jou kommentaar het niks met die artikels te doen nie!!! Stormer Groete

      RealTokolos - 2012-05-08 16:56

      It all depends on the forward packs and which loosies protect their scrummie the best. Any scrummie playing behind a struggling scrum or without loosies to protect and help him at scrum time will tell you that it is not an easy job. They are then forced to play a little tighter and there is no time and free space to get innovative around the scrums, loose scrums, mauls and rucks. If there is good solid structure in the overall forward play, the scrummie always shine! I rate Hougie a little bit higher than Pretorius although he is right up there with him. Both excellent players.

      Jacobus - 2012-05-08 19:28

      you wish. go tahssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssss

      Johan - 2012-05-08 19:29

      @ fake Johan Bwa ha ha ha, met die vuiste se jy. So jy dink oor jy bietjie vir Dorette nou en dan rondklap jy kan nou aan my ook slaan. Ek se jou wat, dokter vlieg jou sommer Kanada toe, one way kaartjie betaal ek vir jou, dan kom wys jy my hoe doen jy dit!

      Blouvitrioel - 2012-05-08 19:41

      Lekker slaat fake Johan sy naam met n plank. Dink omdat jy arme Dorette kan wikkel jy kan dit met enige iemand doen. Bul groete.

  • Robin - 2012-05-08 13:58

    Personally ... I dont see what there is to look forward to.. not gonna be a battle... Hougaard is gonna kill Sarel

  • BlouMasjien - 2012-05-08 14:17

    Hougaard is meer veelsydig en hy is beter op verdediging

  • Reinhardt Leach - 2012-05-08 16:38

    Hougaard will wear the nr.9 jersey for SA but I will put Sarel on the bench for SA, he is a very good impact player! Gonna be a good match-up, just don't think the Warathas will win this one, because they are not having a good year! Go Storrmers!

  • Jack - 2012-05-08 18:10

    If the Bulls had any brains, they'd play JJ and Sadie as the center combo...

  • Franklyn - 2012-05-08 20:40

    Hougaard is better all-round,Springbok no.9 no doubt.

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