Hougaard, who has a one-year contract with the South African Rugby Union, has been granted leave to join English club Worcester for a few months in the Aviva Premiership, which means that he will sit out the upcoming four World Rugby Sevens Series events in Las Vegas, Vancouver, Hong Kong and Singapore.
So the former Bok scrumhalf will not play Super Rugby for the Bulls, and will rejoin the Blitzbokke in time for the last two sevens tournaments in Paris and London in May. He is likely to feature in the squad for the Rio Olympics in August as well after steady improvement in the shortened format since making his debut in Dubai last December.
“This is a great opportunity for Francois and he was always keen on the idea of exploring playing opportunities overseas,” Blitzbok coach Neil Powell said. “He has kept us informed at all times and we had him scheduled to skip the next couple of tournaments anyway, because of our rotation system.”
But on the plus side for the Blitzbokke, Powell will welcome back a number of experienced operators who missed the last two tournaments in Wellington and Sydney.
Captain Kyle Brown (shoulder), Cecil Afrika (hamstring) and Branco du Preez (shoulder) have all recovered fully from their injuries after completing their rehabilitation programmes, and will bring much-needed composure from Brown and the playmaking skills that Afrika and Du Preez possess in abundance.
The trio’s return comes at just the right time for Powell, as apart from Hougaard, he won’t be able to call on the likes of Cheslin Kolbe, Juan de Jongh and Rayno Benjamin for the next four tournaments at least as they have gone back to their respective Super Rugby franchises.
The Blitzbokke are joint-top of the World Series log on 69 points with Fiji and New Zealand, and will look to get back to winning ways in the next event in Las Vegas on March 4-6.
Original source: Blitzbokke lose Hougaard