Go with Hougi

Daryn Katz

Francois Hougaard is 30 years old. He played for the Bulls in Super Rugby 88 times and has represented the Springboks on 46 occasions. He is an Olympic Games Bronze medal winner for the South African Sevens team. He is no longer a young upstart but rather a wily veteran.

It’s a World Cup year and coaches will be fine-tuning their squads for the global showpiece. Barring injuries, top-tier teams already have their core personnel entrenched. The Tests leading up to Japan offer players the opportunity to raise their hands for gaps in the team.

Since Rassie Erasmus took over the Springbok reins, there’s been a lack of depth and experience at scrumhalf. Erasmus has done well to back Faf De Klerk who fell out of favour with Allister Coetzee. Over the course of 2018, De Klerk did exceptionally well to establish himself as a key player at both Sale Sharks and the Springboks. Given De Klerk’s significant influence and the way he’s employed to disrupt the opposition, Erasmus must consider him the primary scrumhalf.

Chances were also given to youngsters Ivan Van Zyl and Embrose Papier. Van Zyl offered a structured approach while Papier showcased zip and energy. Erasmus took some time before throwing Papier into the Test rugby cauldron. Plenty work must have been done behind the scenes because Papier’s composure and commitment were evident when he did get a go. That patience in preparation has paid off with Papier now starting for the Bulls in Super Rugby and displaying his capabilities.

It’s an inescapable fact though that both Papier and Van Zyl are still wet behind the ears. If De Klerk – who still only has 21 Tests under his belt – and Papier are pencilled in then Erasmus should want to include an experienced campaigner as his third-choice 9 to travel to the Land of the Rising Sun.

Enter Hougaard. Erasmus knows that a grizzled squad, along with a smattering of talented youngsters, has proven crucial to winning previous World Cups. It’s why he’s worked hard to bring the likes of Schalk Brits, Duane Vermeulen and Willie Le Roux into the fold.

Unlike other scrumhalves in contention, Francois Hougaard has World Cup experience and has won a Super Rugby title. He’s accustomed to playing in the most high-pressure environments and knowing how to deal with these pressures could place him in a useful mentorship role.

While at the Bulls, Hougaard served as understudy to Fourie Du Preez. While his game is different to Du Preez’s, it’s also true that no other current South African scrumhalf has come close to delivering the box-kicking precision and tactical master class that was Du Preez’s signature.

Hougaard has blown hot and cold for the Springboks. But one could argue that he was prone to inaccuracy because he was shunted from scrumhalf to wing so often. This is no longer the case – he’s been playing Premiership rugby for the Worcester Warriors since 2016 and has been doing so consistently at scrumhalf.

Ross Cronje offers appealing game management while Cobus Reinach has speed to burn. But no other current options, barring Ruan Pienaar, have Hougaard’s experience.

Like Pienaar, Hougaard has announced his retirement from the international game. But perhaps a ticket to the World Cup would see him answer the call, like Os Du Randt and Percy Montgomery did for Jake White.

At his best, Francious Hougaard has the strength to operate as a virtual fourth loose forward in defence and the X-factor attacking brilliance to break a game wide open. He has operated in tandem with Erasmus’s first-choice flyhalf Handre Pollard at the Bulls.

It’s time we see this halfback pairing reunited in a Test on the eve of Rugby’s biggest spectacle.

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Follow Daryn on Twitter: @KatzDaryn

- Daryn Katz

Let's chat

  • Wesley

    Nope nope nope, stick with local so far you can, Faf deserves the exception, the other guys can pull it through. Hougie, although great, had his stint many times over.

    • Chris

      Anyone remember that penalty he quick tap-ed and then kicked out on the full ?
      I saw it again on a youtube vid of the 10 biggest Rugby brain farts in history the other day.
      Painful to watch!!

  • SweetAz

    Hougard has too many tattoos, its a sure indicator of low self-esteem and personality disorder. There is a direct correlation between the number of tattoos and the severity of the disorder.

    • Chris

      That must explain all those tattood , “low self esteem” All Blacks.
      I bet if you’d go tell TJ Perenara he has personality disorder he’d break down and cry instead of punching you in the face.
      You should try that one day to prove your theory.

      • SweetAz

        Well, in the AB’s case its actually not a psychological thing as its part of their culture. A primitive stone-age culture as can be evinced by the childish face-pulling and sticking out of the tongue. As such it’s more a manifestation of their childlike mental and emotional evolutionary development.
        Have you noticed how children like to draw on their bodies? Fortunately, in more advanced cultures, they normally have parents intelligent enough to teach them to stop doing it.
        The quality of parenting has been in general decline in Western Society for some time now hence the proliferation of tattoos.
        You will notice in Japan,–a very advanced culture, that no person of culture, intelligence or morality will have tattoos. Its something reserved for the criminal classes and people of extremely low social standing.

    • John Comyn

      SweetAz I picture you as one of those fat okes with knock knees, ponytail, bokkie (just like the one Elton Jantjies has) and lots of tats. Are you from Boksburg by any chance?

      • Wesley

        Nah leave the tats, he can’t be that cool, but the fat oke with knock knees and a bokkie does seem fitting….

      • SweetAz

        LOL, what did I ever do to you? I am a “big” guy 6ft and 98kg’s, played hooker but I still do my 40 pushups every day and I’m mostly bald and embracing it. Never had a tattoo, I was raised to believe only low-class people have tattoos.

        • John Comyn

          Ya SweetAz I’m also a rugby has-been. The older I get the better I was!

    • Barry

      Lol, so that’s the story with tattoos!

      • SweetAz

        Wait for it,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,

  • Barry

    What is your thinking, that Schalk Britz would have another pensioner along to keep him company?lol

    He took Louise Schreuder along for the year end tour and I suspect that will be his back up plan, rather than go foreign!

    If he were to consider an additional overseas player, I would unquestionably go for Rheinach. He is currently playing out of his skin for Norths and arguably offers more than Faf. Do not really support the Hougi thinking I’m afraid – never really impressed for the Springboks and we have enough pensioners already!

    • SweetAz

      Well, I am currently watching the “pensioner” make Marx look like a fool, at this rate they can start asking is it perhaps Marx keeping Akker out of the Boks.

      • Barry

        Ah the guy with the red hat that dropped the ball over the try line? Or the guy that left the field 20 mins early for the sanctity of oxygen mask and Zimmer frame? Yeh I saw that too!

        • SweetAz

          Dont be THAT guy, the one that cry’s about the ref. I thought that was only Schrodingers thing, although if the Lions carry on like this we may never see him again.

        • SweetAz

          How about those SNAAKS,—still think Akker is a bok? still think the Du Preez Brothers are boks? If the Stormers would just get rid of the evil Damiens, Sp and Leys they may actually have a bacline

          • Barry

            Stormers – only team in the comp that have their own set of match officials.lol Etzebeth & Schikerling must surely be sited!!

        • SweetAz

          No, -the guy with vision, speed, handling, acceleration—I think you were watching Marx

          • SweetAz

            Yeah, that “complete/expansive/brilliant/cerebral/skilful” rugby had the Bulls totally flummoxed
            .

          • Barry

            One swallow … let’s not get beyond our selves! Face it, not much opposition though was there?

    • Dean Bright

      Agreed, Reinach was worthy of a Springbok call up 4 years ago. He is even BETTER now. It makes sense to pick a player who is ever improving. It will also put pressure on Faf to consistently deliver. Ivan van Zyl is not test match quality yet and Hougaard has had his chances 10 times over. He crumbles when the pressure is on, much like Elton lol

      • Barry

        Yes agreed, the criteria for National selection should demand of players that are smashing the door down for inclusion, not just doing enough to get through. This point more so at 9 than most other positions!

    • John Comyn

      Whooo I agree with Barry on something! If he had his way Louis would be a shoo in as Cobus’s backup. Cobus scores tries. Something we have not seen from a scrummie in SA since the days of Jooste & F Du Preez. Just a heads up Barry, every side that ever won the WC was littered with geriatrics. Dealing with the pressure of knock-out rugby requires experience and brains so maybe Britz is not a bad idea

      • Barry

        You started off so well John, and then….

        Good luck fir tomorrow!

        • John Comyn

          Thanks and right back at you. May the best side win!

          • SweetAz

            Proooooooooooooooovince

    • SweetAz

      Agree with you on Reinach, I like his speed and sniping. With the modern rush defence, there are definitely opportunities for a quick scrumhalf to go through the middle, it changes the whole dynamic of the game as soon as you get behind the line and suddenly the rush becomes a huge disadvantage. Its partially why Perenara has been gaining the ascendancy over Aaron Smith, distributing the ball is pointless when you are distributing it to someone who receives ball and defender at the same time. Perenara is strong and scores many tries because of his directness.
      The team who wins this RWC will be the one who’s worked out the rush defence.

      • Barry

        Agreed, it also keeps the loosies honest. At present they just drift into the 10 or 12 channel, because that is predictable where it’s going!

  • Chris Mouton

    NOOOOOOO! NO HOUGAARD! Fresh take my arse. Hougaard has never impressed me. He has no BMT whatsoever. Leave Hougaard be. Perish the thought. We know where this road leads. My three scrummies would be Faf, Reinach and Papier/Schreuder. Reinach is so much in form that it would be foolish not to pick him. As for ou toppie Brits, let’s see how it goes as Akker is making huge statements so far.

    • Barry

      Agreed Chris, don’t read too much into the Britz comment, Sweet is either pushing buttons, or he likes older men…hell, not sure. Lol

      • SweetAz

        I like older men when they play better than all the younger men, Britz is making a fool of Marx.

      • SweetAz

        Sies man. Not only are you racist, but homophobic and ageist as well. Watch out, I’ll start boohoo’ing you in a minute. I have no idea how a reprobate like you still gets to spread this icecream on a newly transformed forum.

        • Wesley

          Did Barry strike a nerve there Sweet? No problem if you like men, but obviously you feel ashamed of your preferences… Embrace it, dont be shy.

          • Wesley

            Nah its just fun trolling idiots on the internets ne. Having a go while taking a dump whahaha.

          • SweetAz

            Whatever rocks your boat, your creepy obsessive behaviour certainly reflects an interesting mental pathology.

          • Wesley

            Open forum…. Are you attempting to muzzle my free speech? Or do you determine free speech only valid for white males that are not part of the “help”, as you call them? Must be hell inside your head….

          • SweetAz

            Please stop stalking me Wesley, I don’t mind a bit of banter with equals but we don’t fraternize with the help. Now be a good boy and go mow the lawn or drink a papsak.

  • Redge

    No ways not Hougaard. Reinach is miles better than hopelessly overrated van Zyl.

  • Logan

    Ja, I think Hougaard was a wasted talent. Meyer should have never played him on the wing. He never learned to manage a game from 9 under pressure.

    Reinach should be in the Squad. Papier at best should be an apprentice. He is only 21 and need some more development. But another case of a talented player of colour being pushed to early to make up the governments quota numbers.

    If anything, I would Ruaan Pienaar in the Squad. Covers all the basis for a world cup player. 9, 10 and 15. Accurate goal kicker too.

    • Albert

      Ruan Pienaar? If we want to play a slow terrible game plan then sure. But I thought we wanted to play with a bot more tempo and use our wingers better? Pienaar is the master at slowing a game down and even a snail would overtake his passing.

  • Chris

    The game we won against NZ in 2014 was him and Pollard. They played better than Smith and Barrett that day. It was amazing. Pollard scored two tries and Hougie 1. I felt that Pollard/Hougaard gelled really well. Worth a look I reckon, take him to the Rugby Championship as 2nd choice. Papier is not ready. Give Hougaard/Pollard another chance. They earned it.

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