Springbok utility back Francois Hougaard wants to play only scrumhalf next season and admits that he would rather play off the bench for the Boks if it meant he could put all his focus into improving in the number nine jersey.
In a refreshingly open interview with the Keo.co.za website, Hougaard admitted to feeling frustrated by his move to the wing this season for the Boks, after starting the season in his preferred position of scrumhalf.
Hougaard, who was widely considered the successor to Fourie du Preez, began the international season in the number nine jersey, but after failing to come to terms with the gameplan employed by the Boks, he was replaced by Ruan Pienaar and shifted out to the wing.
The Bulls star admits he is concerned the move will damage his career in the long term.
"I haven’t been happy with my form. I’m still learning a lot at scrumhalf, but I haven’t played much there. I still train there every day, but you only get better if you play. I still think that’s my best position,” Hougaard told the website.
"In the long run, I’m a scrumhalf. I want to settle in one position or I run the risk of being an average wing and an average scrumhalf. I don’t want that to happen. I know I have so much to work on at scrumhalf, but I’d prefer to cover scrumhalf from the bench for the Springboks [in 2013] if it means I’m not thrown around positionally [scrumhalf at the Bulls and wing with the Springboks]."
Hougaard enjoyed a breakout season – both with the Bulls and the Boks – last year, but his form in 2012 has not been good, as he freely admits. And while Bok coach Heyneke Meyer currently sees him as a wing, the player himself clearly does not. He even admits that the player he is keeping out of the side – Lwazi Mvovo – has a right to feel aggrieved.
"The coach plays me ahead of Lwazi [Mvovo] on wing, but I feel for him," said Hougaard.
"I would understand and support the decision to play him ahead of me," he said. "It feels unfair to me because I’m playing in his position and not doing that well. It’s easy to tell the guys to keep themselves up on a three-week tour, where they sit on the bench or never play.
"“It’s not nice and not easy, I’ve been there. But I’m here now and I have to take the chance. I’m working hard every day to improve."