Hougaard is back from a two-month stint with Worcester Warriors in England, where he made such an impression that they offered him a contract for next season, which he accepted.
But while he could’ve tried to convince SA Rugby to stay in England until the Olympics, Hougaard knows there are no guarantees when it comes to selection in Rio, and he came back to the Blitzboks’ Stellenbosch base this week for the final two tournaments of the World Series in Paris and London over the next fortnight.
“I had a good time in England with the Warriors, but obviously I missed my Blitzboks fam, the culture and the group. I had a great time at the four tournaments that I played in, and I am excited to return to training and come join the guys at the camp,” Hougaard on Sunday before the squad’s departure to Paris.
“I’ve put myself in contention to make these two tournaments, and the only way you can do that is through hard work. That’s what we’ve been doing this last week, so it’s been a great week so far.”
But Hougaard, who impressed in the four tournaments that he featured in for the Blitzboks this season, is one of the few who are sure to make the final cut for Rio.
However, having played 15-man rugby for the last two months, Hougaard will have to get used to the fast-paced shorter format once again to help the Blitzboks push for the series title.
Neil Powell’s team are second on the standings, eight points behind Fiji, and will probably need to win both tournaments to have a chance of overhauling the log-leaders.
“It’s always a challenge. I’ve said to a lot of people that it’s not as easy as it looks like on TV. It’s difficult – there’s a lot of structure, especially on defence, and it takes time to get used to. You don’t just walk in here and you know everything, like the way it was when you left,” Hougaard said.
“It’s always tough to come back, but the harder you work, I guess you pick it up much quicker. You can always learn, and even the specialists in sevens who have played the game their whole life, still learn today. That’s the great thing about it, you can always get better.”
Olympic gold is the big prize at the end of the day, though, but Hougaard is not getting ahead of himself. “Obviously it’s a big goal at the back of your mind, but I just take it week for week, and I think I can speak on behalf of the whole squad when I say we take it tournament for tournament, week by week. We don’t look too far ahead,” he said.
“I think you tend to lose sight of your job at hand when you look too far ahead, so we are definitely just focusing on the next two tournaments, Paris and London. When we are done with that, we will start with our crucial prep for the Olympics.”
Original source: Hougaard: Sevens not so easy