Hougies back to his best?
Hougies back to his best?SHARE
The plaudits went to Morné Steyn and rightly so – he kicked seven from seven in the Bulls' impressive 25-17 win over the Stormers.
However, one of the unsung heroes at Loftus Versfeld was scrumhalf Francois Hougaard, who once again proved that No.9 is his best position.
The 24-year-old, who started almost as many Tests on the wing as at scrumhalf, is not the finished product yet.
However, in the knowledge that he will be allowed to concentrate on his preferred position, the 27-times capped Bok looked a far more accomplished player than the one who seemed to have lost his direction in 2012.
Hougaard established himself as first-choice scrumhalf at Super Rugby level last year, only to lose his Springboks No.9 jersey to Ruan Pienaar and then was moved to the wing again – a position he played in for the Bulls in 2011.
Bulls coach Frans Ludeke, speaking to this website, confirmed that Hougaard will be used almost exclusively at No.9 this year.
While there might be the odd occasion that he will be required elsewhere in the team, he will be given a chance to focus on the skills required to make him a first class scrumhalf and hopefully cement his place as the Boks' starting No..
"When we chatted to Hougies [Hougaard] about the season and selection, he made it clear he is a team man and will play wherever the team needs him," Ludeke told this website.
"However, he wants to focus at scrumhalf.
"It requires a completely different skills set [than what he needs on the wing] – things like decision-making, tactical appreciation, especially at No.9.
"He wants to focus on scrumhalf play this year."
Asked if he felt the decision to give him more game time at No.9 might help the scrumhalf in his Bok ambitions, Ludeke tactfully shifted the focus.
"I can't speak about what will happen at the Springboks, but we don't have any problem with it [playing him more at No.9]," the Bulls mentor said.
"He is a good scrumhalf – between him and Jano Vermaak we have two quality scrumhalves that will serve us well this season."
By Jan de Koning