Hougaard shines in Bulls romp

Francois Hougaard scored a brace in the Vodacom Blue Bulls’ 57-19 win over the Free State Cheetahs in Bloemfontein. JON CARDINELLI reports.

Earlier this year, Hougaard was omitted from the Springboks’ wider training squad. Clearly the snub has motivated him to lift his game.

The scrumhalf produced an outstanding performance for the Bulls in this their first match of the new Currie Cup season. While the Bulls pack must receive credit for their work at the breakdowns, lineouts and collisions, the options taken by Hougaard and flyhalf Tian Schoeman allowed the Bulls to make the most of that platform. Schoeman also impressed with his nine-from-nine effort in front of goal, a performance that netted him 22 points.

The Cheetahs scored early in the game via a lineout maul, and then didn’t score again until the 60th minute. Their forwards lacked aggression and accuracy, and their overall defensive performance was nothing short of shambolic.

The Bulls scored their bonus-point try in the 46th minute through fullback Warrick Gelant. The visitors finished the game with six tries in all, and the excellent goal-kicking by Schoeman and Louis Fouche ensured the winning margin reflected their dominance.

A bonus-point win away from home is a terrific result for the Bulls, who have a new coach in Nollis Marais. On the other hand, the Franco Smith-coached Cheetahs have begun their domestic campaign in the worst possible fashion.

Free State Cheetahs – Tries: Boom Prinsloo, Shaun Venter, Clayton Blommetjies. Conversions: Niel Marais, Fred Zeilinga.
Blue Bulls – Tries: Jamba Ulengo, Deon Stegmann, Francois Hougaard (2), Warwick Gelant, Travis Ismaiel. Conversions: Tian Schoeman (5), Louis Fouche. Penalties: Schoeman (4), Fouche.

Free State Cheetahs – 15 Coenie van Wyk, 14 Clayton Blommetjies, 13 Francois Venter, 12 Rayno Benjamin, 11 Raymond Rhule, 10 Niel Marais, 9 Shaun Venter, 8 Gerhard Olivier, 7 Henco Venter, 6 Boom Prinsloo, 5 Francois Uys (c), 4 Willem Serfontein, 3 Luan de Bruin, 2 Neil Rautenbach, 1 Caylib Oosthuizen.
Subs: 16 Jacques du Toit, 17 Maks van Dyk, 18 BG Uys, 19 Reniel Hugo, 20 Tienie Burger, 21 Zee Mkhabela, 22 Fred Zeilinga.

Blue Bulls – 15 Warrick Gelant, 14 Travis Ismaiel, 13 William Small-Smith, 12 Burger Odendaal, 11 Jamba Ulengo, 10 Tian Schoeman, 9 Francois Hougaard, 8 Hanro Liebenberg, 7 Lappies Labuschagne (c), 6 Deon Stegmann, 5 Marvin Orie, 4 Jacques du Plessis, 3 Werner Kruger, 2 Jaco Visagie, 1 Dean Greyling.
Subs: 16 Bandise Maku, 17 Nqoba Mxoli, 18 RG Snyman, 19 Roelof Smit, 20 Ivan van Zyl, 21 Louis Fouche, 22 Dries Swanepoel.

Photo: Johan Pretorius/Gallo Images

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Jon Cardinelli