Hougaard shift surprises Wallabies
The decision by South Africa coach Heyneke Meyer to shift Francois Hougaard to wing and name Ruan Pienaar as the starting scrumhalf for Saturday’s Rugby Championship clash against Australia in Perth has proved to be something of a surprise for the Wallabies.
Australia captain, and scrumhalf, Will Genia said that the decision to move Hougaard away from the nine jersey had caught him a bit off guard.
“I was surprised a little bit to be honest. I really rate Hougaard as a halfback. He offers them a lot around the breakdown. He is quick, he has got great acceleration and provides a lot of spark,” Genia told reporters in Perth on Friday.
However, Genia was quick to temper his implied criticism by paying tribute to Pienaar’s abilities.
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“They don’t lose anything at all with Ruan. He is a world-class halfback as well. The thing with Hougaard on the wing is that he has out-and-out pace and he gives them that ability on the wing,” he said.
Hougaard has come in for some criticism this international season with his service to his backline not being as crisp as it could perhaps be while Pienaar, who has come off the bench in the last two tests against Argentina, seemed to provide the Springboks with some direction as well as injecting some spark into the backline.
A Wallaby insider said this week that the Australia management would take the decision to shift Hougaard to the wing but South Africa captain Jean de Villiers said that the decision to move Hougaard was to try and find some extra space for the talented 24-year-old.
“We would love to get more ball to our outside backs,” said De Villiers.
“We have great outside backs and we have the leading try-scorer for the Springboks in Bryan Habana and Francois is also fantastic when he has space.
“That was the thinking behind that switch. Francois is really good when he has some space and you don’t get that at nine. Ruan has also being playing well and he has been making a difference when he has come off the bench. He has a good tactical kicking game and a good pass. He is the third most capped player in the team. We will have to wait and see how it goes. Hopefully it goes in our favour and those two guys have great games,” he added.