Worcester respond to Hougaard joining rival Premiership club instead of heading overseas
Worcester have insisted there are no hard feelings with Francois Hougaard after the former Springboks scrum-half decided on Wednesday to surprisingly join a rival Gallagher Premiership club after months of speculation that he was moving overseas.
Hougaard, the soon-to-be 33-year-old, arrived at Worcester in 2016 and with his Springboks days behind him after winning the last of his 46 caps in September 2017, he committed his long-term future to the Warriors in 2018.
That three-year extension expires this summer and amid speculation that Hougaard was either off to Japan or potentially heading back to South Africa to join the Jake White project at the Bulls, Worcester made plans for his exit by signing Willi Heinz and Will Chudley for next season.
It has now turned out, though, that instead of watching Hougaard from afar in 2021/22, the half-back will be playing for Wasps in the Premiership after the East Midlands club announced on Wednesday a deal that will bring him to The Ricoh.
Has that twist in destination left Worcester disappointed? No, according to head coach Jonathan Thomas. “We just wish him all the best,” he said. “Wasps have got a good man and a good player. We part on good terms. He has also had a great time at Worcester and he can come back to this club at any time in the future.
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“He has been such a talisman for this club over the last five seasons. The big thing at Worcester over the last five years is it has always been trying to fight relegation and keep the head above water.
“That is something hopefully we are planning on changing in the future, but the big thing we have seen from Francois is he has been that talisman all teams need and he has got Worcester out of trouble on a number of occasions.
“You need big players to inspire those around them and that probably is the definition of what a leader is, those who sacrifice themselves and inspire those around them to play better than what they think they can and Francois has done that on a number of occasions.
“Recruitment is always a bit of a juggling act,” continued Thomas. “The salary cap getting reduced has had a big impact. You really have to watch your pennies because it is just under £2million the cap has gone down.
“Every signing you make you have to make sure that it adds real value to what you are doing and everyone knows what we are trying to achieve as a club. We need to develop our young players and to do that we need leadership in key positions in the spine of our team.
“Look at Scott Baldwin at hooker, Chudley, Willi Heinz, Duhan van der Merwe – throughout the spine of our team we have made some good signings around leadership but most importantly they have all got to fit within the cap as well.
“It’s a difficult juggling act at times but that is where we are at and we are really happy with the two guys that are coming in in that position – and don’t forget young Gareth Simpson who is doing well for the club as well at the moment.”
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