Hougaard’s experience shows in Boks’ win against France
Francois Hougaard may not be the most experienced Bok player in Allister Coetzee's group but from a traveller's experience‚ he's been through it all.
Next to Frans Steyn‚ they are the only players who have played under various Springbok coaches and for Hougaard‚ it showed in Saturday's satisfying 35-12 win against France in the third test at Ellis Park.
For probably the first time in his career‚ he is allowed to play his natural game without having to shrivel in Fourie du Preez's large shadow at the Bulls and the national team.
Ross Cronje was the deserving start due to his form with the Lions but Hougaard has shown the real value of a player whose game has grown when moving overseas.
Hougaard knows the importance of improving his game but there's a selflessness to him that can only be beneficial for the growing confidence of the Springboks.
“It’s about the guys who are believing in terms of where we are going and what we are doing. It's all about everyone being on the same page and it's not about the individual‚ it's about the team. It's not only about the 22 or 23‚ but it's about the squad and everyone who contributes in the week‚” Hougaard said.
“It's easy to be positive when you're wearing the number nine jersey or when you're in the starting 23 but when you have to hold the bag week in and week out‚ you'd be disappointed when you don't play. That's where your character shows and big ups to the guys who held the tackle bags and have not had a game in the past three weeks because they're the ones who make the Springbok side what it is. At the end of the day‚ we all work together towards the same goal.”
It would be easy for a seasoned player like Hougaard to throw out his toys but he seems to have an understanding of how the Bok brand needs to thrive under Allister Coetzee.
Having experienced almost everything during the tenures of Peter de Villiers and Heyneke Meyer‚ the concept of unity and brotherhood has taken on a whole new meaning for Hougaard and it could lie in the team’s willingness to die with their boots on defensively.
“We know there's a lot to work on and the culture is getting stronger. It's easy to throw the word brotherhood around but the guys are really fighting for one another and the guys are really getting to know each other better and it's great to be part of that‚” Hougaard said.
“We leave everything out there and we defend with our hearts. It comes down to understanding your role within the defensive system and where you fit in.”