Cape Town - Blitzbok Francois Hougaard says he’s determined to make the most of his opportunities leading into the Olympic Games and believes sevens rugby has made him a better player.
With sevens rugby making its Olympic debut in July this year, a number of star rugby players have been making the transition from 15s rugby to the seven-man code.
Sonny Bill Williams and Quade Cooper are set to make their sevens debuts for New Zealand and Australia respectively over the next two tournaments.
In South Africa, players like Juan de Jongh and Hougaard have been making a good impact during the opening rounds of the World Series, which sees the Springbok Sevens side positioned tied for first on the overall standings.
Hougaard has enjoyed an exciting journey so far.
“The experience has been amazing so far. Sevens rugby is more difficult than what most people think. It’s not just a game where everyone is just running around... there’s so much attention to detail,” Hougaard told MyPlayers.
“Training is tough... you start at 8am in the morning and
only end off at 5pm, with a few breaks in between. Defence is probably the
hardest part of the game, in terms of tracking the opposition and covering
bigger spaces on the field. In 15s, you have more players on the field to cover
the necessary space.
“Sevens forces you, as a player, to tap into all of your skills. I’ve definitely improved from my time in the sevens squad and I believe I will become a better player because of these experiences.
“The relationships I’ve built with my team-mates have also been great. We’re all friends in the squad and there’s a couple of jokers, like Juan de Jongh and Cecil Afrika. We have a bunch of great guys involved, who create a pleasant environment for everyone.”
In terms of goals for the season ahead, Hougaard hopes to prove himself worthy of Olympic selection.
“As a team and a squad, we’re taking everything one game at a time. But behind everyone’s mind is the prospect of playing at the Olympic Games later this year,” said Hougaard.
“Making that final squad is not going to be easy. You have to prove your worth and like competing for a spot in a Rugby World Cup squad, there are no second chances. It’s going to be a tough challenge and I’m here to give it my all. Representing my country is something I’m really proud of.
“I’m more motivated now than ever… when you’re having fun and enjoying your game, that’s when things go really well.”
And in the long-term? Hougaard revealed that he has the ambition of playing rugby overseas.
“At some stage of my career, I do want to play abroad. I want to find out what the fuss is all about… whether it’s in Japan, England or France. I will cross that bridge when it comes and make a decision then, but for now, my focus is on sevens rugby and I’m excited to see where this journey will take me this season.”
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