The REAL Francois Hougaard

By Kirstin Buick
27 September 2013

In our behind the scenes blog, journalist Jessica Levitt talks about interviewing shy rugby star Francois Hougaard about Reeva, his new home and his baking skills.

It’s the interview every journalist has been trying to get since Francois Hougaard’s name was tossed about in the aftermath of the Reeva Steenkamp shooting. Did he send Reeva a message that night that sent Oscar Pistorius over the edge? When did they last have contact? Was he still secretly in love with her? These unanswered questions have swirled around the rugby player since the fatal early hours of 14 February.

How the rumour began and the source of it remain a mystery. Francois’ steadfast determination to remain silent on the matter has only added fuel to the speculation, with international and local media highlighting his name as a possible cause of the murder.

So, after months and months of silence, Hougi, as he’s affectionately known, finally agreed to speak. Not to clear his name. Certainly not to chat about his once strong friendship with Oscar. And most definitely not to talk about the trial.

Most journalists walk into interviews confident about their subject, knowing when to push and when to hold back. This time is different. I quickly learnt that Francois is a shy guy – despite his reputation for appearing somewhat arrogant. His poker face masks the awkwardness beneath and it was my job to get him to trust me enough to open up.

He speaks about his new home, his recent ankle injury and even his baking skills (he’s really proud of his lemon meringue pie). When it comes to the Oscar-Reeva topic, he stiffens. Understandably. Imagine having your name bandied about in a murder case. Imagine the media considering you to perhaps be the catalyst to what might have happened. And worse still, imagine people on social networks directly blaming you for someone’s death.

It can’t be easy. What was most striking is the 25-year-old’s air of control. He says he’s never spoken about the case, because why should he? He didn’t feel the need to clear his name, because, well, there was nothing to clear. It’s really as simple as that. As a journalist, I felt tough questions had to be asked (for more, buy the latest issue of YOU, on shelf now). However, it was when he started talking about Reeva that he relaxed and even offered a smile.

I left with a huge amount of respect and sympathy for him.

He’s an internationally acclaimed sportsman. Take away the title, the money, the glory and here’s a guy who lost not only a friend but someone with whom he was once intimate. You can’t help but feel for him. Jessica Levitt Read Jessica’s full interview with Francois Hougaard in the latest issue of YOU (3 October 2013) on sale now.

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