The tattoo on his muscled right forearm is a date: 21-11-2009. That’s the day Francois Hougaard debuted for the Springboks. The gutsy, explosive scrumhalf spent just a few minutes in green and gold that afternoon, but explaining the emotion still gets him tongue-tied. Hougaard has since proved himself a creative and dedicated player, with eruptive pace from the base of the scrum and heart-on-sleeve defence. Game-breaking tries in the finals of both the 2009 Currie Cup and the 2010 Super Rugby competition indicate a champion’s temperament, too. But despite the body art, luminous pink boots and flashy manoeuvres on the pitch, away from rugby Hougaard is a shy, hard-working bloke. “I really like it when I meet people who don’t know I’m this famous rugby player,” he says, “’cos people who know you treat you differently.” Now established as a priceless asset for the Bulls’ Super Rugby side, Hougaard can look forward to many more big dates in green and gold.
— Ian Macleod