Francois Hougaard: How it all began

As a young boy Francois had very little interest in rugby. In fact one could go as far as to say that he actually hated the game.

Growing up on a small holding just outside of Paarl Francois’ interests were heavily influenced by his four older sisters and it didn’t take long for him to find his true passion in life…cheerleading.

Soon Francois was dedicating all of his free time to learning everything he could about this much under appreciated art form. He spent ages studying the techniques of the past greats, focusing on champion cheerleaders such as “Kurt McCurdy”, “Leroy De Kous-kous” and “Little Jonny Johnson”. His hunger for knowledge was matched only by his ambition to succeed.

All of his hard work soon paid off and it came as no surprise when Francois was named as Captain of his schools’ elite cheerleading squad at the tender age of just 15. Further success followed in the form of an invitation to try out for the U17 “Wynland Regions”  squad, an opportunity he made full use of by being named “Most Flexible Newcomer” that year.

After completing Matric Francois knew that the only way he could do justice to his burgeoning cheerleading talents would be by joining up with a professional cheerleading outfit, so when he heard that the “Bulls Babes” were auditioning he packed up his Mazda 323 and made a bee-line north for Pretoria.

Unfortunately Francois hadn’t realised that he lacked the essential “physical attributes” necessary to become a successful “Bulls Babe” and the audition was a complete disaster.

Thankfully though, fate had other plans for him and it surely wasn’t just a coincidence that both Victor Matfield and Frans Ludeke were in attendance that day, checking out the quality of the new talent on offer. His energetic and abrasive audition routine so impressed the two men that they offered him a trial run with the Bulls that very same day. Having no other viable options available to him Francois accepted and the rest, as they say, is history.

Rugby has been kind to Francois and although he’s risen to the top of the game it’s a poorly kept secret that his heart still belongs to cheerleading.                    Keep an eye on him the next time he plays and you’ll more than likely notice him lustily staring at the cheerleaders as they go about their business…

Longing…wanting…sometimes even softly weeping…

Francois' favourite cheer: 1,2,3,4...Let me hear you scream some more...GO BULLE!!!

The end of influence for Heyneke Meyer

The sun has set on the empire of the Blue Bulls.  The Bulls 26-21 loss to the Force in Perth not only puts to an end the hopes of a 2011 Super 15 title but also foreshadowed the end of an era when the Bulls played smart powerful rugby.

Worse than the prospect of being able to rest in July while other teams are bashing the hell out of each other is the prospect that this is the end of the Heyneke Meyer influence.  There was a brainlessness to the Bulls play that went against everything that Heyneke had taught these young bucks when they were still wearing plastic studs to the training ground.

I am pretty sure that, to take a football example, with the structures put in place by Alex Ferguson, without any football coaching experience even I could coach Manchester United to a few wins in the first couple of games of my tenure. But eventually even the greatest coaches find that the structures they put in place need to be rebuilt. I have suspected for a while that a large portion of the Frans Ludeke’s success at the Bulls was based on inheriting structures put in place by Heyneke Meyer and being able to rely on the seniority of players like Fourie Du Preez, Victor Matfield and Danie Roussouw to carry this on.  Ludeke, for all intents and purposes, was standing on the shoulders of a giant.

Perhaps the Bulls loss this weekend exposed Ludeke as the coat-tail rider of the rugby coaching world?

The evidence that all the brains have left Pretoria was on display in the final minutes of the game against the force.  The Bulls were down 23-18 with ten minutes to go and were pounding the opposition 22m line when the ref awarded a penalty to the Bulls.  Anyone who has ever taken a passing interest in rugby (from the under 10 primary school kid, to the girlfriend showing a renewed interest in rugby, to the hardcore drinking enthusiast at the Boer and Brit pub), absolutely anyone with a rudimentary grasp of the game will tell you that with Morne Steyn in your side and with ten minutes to go, a five point margin is best overtaken by slotting two penalties.

Go for posts you morons. You. Have. Morne. Steyn. In. Your. Team.

What do they do?  The Bulls take the quick tap with all of the hubris of an invading American army only to knock the ball on in the first tackle.

Heyneke Meyer - the Bond villain of SA rugby who coached the Bulls across space and time from his undersea lair deep in the Pacific Ocean.

Eishhhh Heyneke.  Your influence and your dream of a Bulls empire is over.

Wynand Olivier – don’t hate him because he’s beautiful

Wynand Olivier burst onto the Super rugby scene in 2005 amidst a storm of controversy about his hair.  Certain sections of the Blue Bulls fan base were in awe of his long flowing locks – while the more conservative sections of Loftus were deeply troubled at the prospect of a walking Pantene commercial putting on the faded blue jersey.  He quickly earned the nickname of “Prince Charming from Shrek”.

Early on in his career, his defensive woes relegated him to the category of “strictly eye candy only”, but 2006 saw an improved Olivier.  He sorted out his tackling and started to get the backs away with good distribution skills. This saw a call up to Jake White’s Bok team where he put in a solid, if unspectacular, season in the green and gold.  Since 2006 he has struggled to break back into the Bok line up amidst rumours that his modelling career is starting to impact on his time on the training field.

Olivier has had a stormy start to 2011.  Earlier in the year he was spotted in a trendy New York night club in some compromising photos with Kate Moss.  His much awaited album “Waiting for the Rain”  tanked on released, shattering his dream of doing the the trifecta of Bok, supermodel and pop star.

Rumours continue to abound that Wynand will have a starring role in the next Bond film.  Let’s hope he concentrates on his rugby first.

Wynand Olivier warming up in the dressing room before the Bok test at the House of Pain in Carisbrook..

The Cobra Kai Bulls beat those guys in yellow from NZ

Team Yellow from NZ’s best laid plans were laid to waste again this weekend.

So the Bulls rectified the sinking ship that was their season by pulling a win out of the bag against those guys in Yellow from New Zealand.  The team that never had a decent pack, but used to be pretty dangerous when Lomu and Cullen played for them.  You know.  The Hurricanes.

It is being reported as an ugly victory by most blogs and media sources. If I was a Bulls fan, I’d say stick it. I’ll take a win on Kiwi soil any day, and screw how “ugly” it looked to the purists in Kiwiland.  As they say up north “looks at the scoreboard”  – that is all that matters.

Footage from the Blue Bulls pre-season training camp

After losing two in a row at Fortress Loftus it must have been a relief to see Morne Steyn banging the kicks over and to see Bulls resorting to that primitive smash you up front approach. There are few things sweeter than seeing a Bulls team dominate an opponent to the point of intimidation, and the competition needs a bully.  It’s kind of like that bad ass kid in the first Karate Kid movie. You need Johnny from the Cobra Kai dojo to make the film interesting.  And the Super 15 needs a bad ass Blue Bulls team.

The tour to South Africa for visiting teams was in danger of becoming a “concede the game against the Stormers and rack up bonus points against everyone else” kind of an affair. But having a formidable Bulls team firing on cylinders can only improve the interest in the Super 15 and the quality of the tournament as whole.

The flash, the skillful, the cunning and the tricky all in their own way need a bully to pit their skills against. That’s what the Blue Bulls provide. For all the carping and whining that comes out of Aussie papers about the thugs up north in the republic, you know they secretly love it.

Everybody loves a good ass-kicking handed out by a bully.  Bring it on!

Um yeah.  And Supersport, stop calling the Hurricanes a “quality team”. They’re not.

Stormers’ fans bringing their middle fingers to office on Monday

If  you are a Stormers fan, Saturday night was a sweet comfort for last year’s disappointing Super 14 final.  Not only did the Stormer’s end seven lean years since their last win in Pretoria and not only was the winning try scored by a former Bulls player, but best of all – in their 23-13 win the Stormers front row ate the Blue Bulls at scrum time.

It was an awkward stony silence in which these two Bulls fans drove home from Loftus on Saturday evening.

It was an awkward stony silence in which these two Bulls fans drove home from Loftus on Saturday evening.

For those who are fans of Stormer’s scrumming (few of them that there are) this was the equivalent of tuning into old school  eTV Saturday night adult programming. Witnessing a front row from the Cape monstering the Blue Bulls pack at scrum time was pure joy. It’s not often you see the Bulls give up tightheads on their own scrum feed, it’s rarer still to see them pushed backward faster than a Middle East dictator.

Bryan Habana had a mixed night, copping it from both the Bulls and the Stormers supporters as for most of the match his ball handling skills looked like an impersonation of Charlie Chaplin trying to hold onto a slippery eel covered in oil. Nevertheless he put on his rarely seen burners at just the right time to zip past Bjorn Basson on his way to scoring the winning try for the men from the Cape.  I was half expecting/half hoping to see him give the Andrew Merhtens’ Loftus salute of a middle finger victory lap.

There’s going to be a different vibe across the Republic on Monday morning. A few Capies will be swaggering into office and there might be a few sheepish Bulls fan who will be wishing they could take back their Friday afternoon taunts. I can imagine a few offices around the country in which Cape Townians will be bringing their middle finger to the office for the Monday morning coffee routine.