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Rugby | Springboks

Francois Hougaard © Gallo Images

Hougaard ‘technically’ poor

Worcester and Springbok scrumhalf Francois Hougaard seems to have born the brunt of the unhappiness at the Springboks’ recent tour to Australia and New Zealand, with coach Allister Coetzee confirming he wasn’t happy with his play.

Hougaard was the only player from the tour left out of the squad who will undertake the last two games in the Castle Lager Rugby Championship in South Africa and has been seen by some to be a scapegoat for the Boks 57-0 loss to New Zealand.

Surprisingly a player such as Raymond Rhule – who missed nine tackles against New Zealand – has been kept in the squad, while Hougaard, who was until then the only overseas based player in Coetzee’s squad, has been dispatched back to his English club.

Coetzee confirmed he was not happy with Hougaard’s technical ability and blamed it on the fact he has been moved between wing and halfback throughout his professional career.

“Look I am not going to go and explain every individual player and why he has been left out. The reason for Francois Hougaard obviously – he is a fantastic rugby player and it is just that that continuity hasn’t been part of this - like not playing regularly at nine has not helped him with his technical ability at scrumhalf at test match level,” Coetzee said.

“Unfortunately that is the case and it hasn’t gone well, because I think it is important that our nines function really well. And I just think technically at that level it has been a struggle for him really.”

While it is unusual to see a coach directly criticise a player like this, Coetzee followed it up with his explanation that the scrumhalf needs to do the basics well. With Ross Cronje overcoming a viral illness that saw him miss the last two tests, Coetzee said the basics, as well as combinations were a key in the way he looked at his No 9s.

“Its not just with Ross there, but also the combination, which was another criteria I had with the selection this year. In combination with Elton, it helps a lot. There is synergy and they understand each other very well. Ross does the basics very well, a player like (Rudy) Paige does the basics very well. Louis Schreuder has good basics. One has to look at that, and it is important for the way we want to play - for any ball in hand game – to make sure the backs and Elton get set and have a bit of space and time on the ball.

“Louis Schreuder is basically a player who has shown that form as well for the Kings and the Sharks and I think he is instrumental in the Sharks’ upward curve, their performance this year, he has played really well. And if you look at the future, going forward he is now 27, he has matured but he has age on his side. This compared to Jano (Vermaak) who was part of our tour to Argentina – great scrumhalf, still part of the plans but we have to have a long term plan as well.

Coetzee added winger S’busiso Nkosi as an example of bringing in a young player for the future, and while he didn’t say it, the Boks are looking at the Sharks winger for a start possibly in the end of year tour.

“Therefore a guy like S’busiso Nkosi is also in the mix, we need to focus on long term planning. He is an outstanding player on form. It is difficult for me to say – yes on the one hand overseas players, I need to look at local players. And then for a particular player, I say no, he can be overseas and I can pick him despite the form the other players are showing here. It doesn’t work like that, so I have to be consistent and fair. S’busiso is a player for the future, he shows that confidence when he plays for the Sharks, and that is how I selected the beginning of the year, the players who were confident playing for their franchises, and they do have that confidence coming to the national side. They do have that confidence to make good decisions on the field.”

After the 57-0 loss to New Zealand, the Boks will need to bounce back strongly in these two home tests.

Anything else and Coetzee’s unhappiness with Hougaard will be of little consequence in the greater scheme of things.


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