New team cul­ture key to Spring­boks’ re­vival – Hougaard

The Star Early Edition - - SPORT - VATA NGOB­ENI

THE se­cret be­hind the Spring­boks resur­gence this year has as much to do with what they do off the field as what they do on the field.

A lot has been said about the new Spring­bok “team cul­ture” from an as­sort­ment of play­ers ex­pe­ri­enced and rook­ies alike.

How­ever, one man who knows a lot about team cul­ture and the in­flu­ence it has on a Spring­bok team is vet­eran scrumhalf Fran­cois Hougaard.

Hougaard is one of three play­ers, along with Tendai Mtawarira and Frans Steyn, that is play­ing un­der their third Spring­bok coach and the for­mer Bulls scrumhalf is singing the praises of his team­mates and the “cul­ture” that has turned around the for­tunes of the team.

“I think the guys re­ally be­lieve in where we are go­ing and what we are do­ing and we have ev­ery­one on the same page and mak­ing ev­ery­one un­der­stand what it is about.

“It is not about the in­di­vid­ual but more about the team, not only the 23 but ev­ery­one con­trib­utes dur­ing the week,” Hougaard said af­ter Satur­day’s 35-12 win over France at El­lis Park.

In get­ting his way back into the Spring­bok side, Hougaard has pa­tiently waited his turn and had to play be­hind Ross Cronje af­ter Spring­bok coach Al­lis­ter Coet­zee hauled him back from the wilder­ness af­ter be­ing un­cer­e­mo­ni­ously dumped by pre­vi­ous coach Heyneke Meyer on the eve of the 2015 Rugby World Cup.

Hougaard, who plies his trade in Eng­land for the Worces­ter, be­lieves the strength of the cur­rent crop of Spring­boks is in the col­lec­tive in­stead of in­di­vid­u­als and that has been the se­cret of turn­ing around a woe­ful 2016 sea­son to the se­ries white­wash against France.

“It is easy to be pos­i­tive when you are in the start­ing line-up or match day 23 but when you have to hold the bags week in and week out and be­ing dis­ap­pointed that you don’t play, that is when your char­ac­ter shows. Big up to the guys who haven’t had a game in the last three weeks, we feel for them and those are the guys who make the Spring­bok side. They test us on de­fence and give us good prac­tice at the end of the day. We are all work­ing to­gether to­wards the same goal. We all take it week for week.

Luck­ily, we won this Test se­ries 3-0 but there is still a lot to work on. The cul­ture in the team is get­ting stronger. It is easy to throw the word brother­hood around but the guys are re­ally feel­ing for one an­other. It is not about be­ing friends, the guys re­ally get to know each other, their fam­i­lies, kids and wives. I think it is much deeper than.”

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