Francois Hougaard knows better than most that all it takes is one good opportunity for the Sharks to turn around what has been a difficult start to their third Vodacom URC.
He knows this from his own career, where it was literally just one good opportunity that set him on the path to a professional career and becoming one of the country’s most experienced players with 46 Tests for the Springboks.
“When you’re young and play for your school, you never know whether it can become a career. I didn’t know I was going to be a professional rugby player up until I signed my first professional contract. I never played Craven Week and only got one opportunity to go for SA U19 trials, and I managed to play well,” Hougaard said.
“It was literally one opportunity. If it wasn’t for that opportunity I wouldn’t be in this position today. I played for SA U19 and then SA U20 and then got a professional contract after that. You only need that one opportunity, and you never know when it comes. It’s just that one shot.”
The veteran scrumhalf says he has no doubt that the Sharks have the desire to achieve great things as a group.
“This is probably one of the fittest group of players I’ve ever been involved with. There is still a lot of work left for us to do but it’s an exciting journey. This group has got so much talent.”
Having played in some extremely high performing teams throughout his career, Hougaard says there are certain thing you can immediately spot in a team that has the potential he sees in the Sharks.
“You see the hunger of the players to want to achieve bigger things. I’ve been playing for quite a while and there are similar things that you spot. A winning culture and that hunger to win becomes a non-negotiable,” he added.
“It’s a new era now with John Plumtree and you can feel the hunger of the team to want to perform and start something amazing.”
And he’s willing to do whatever is required from him to help them achieve this.
“I’ve been a professional for about 15 years now. For me it’s about a sense of pride. I’ve always just tried to give it my best shot no matter what team I play for or what game we’re playing.
“I see every game exactly the same. It’s a sense of pride within myself and a standard I’ve got to live up to. So just to be playing weekly and supporting the players who play above me is exciting.”