JOHANNESBURG - The secret behind the Springboks resurgence this year has as much to do with what they do off the field as what they do on the field.
A lot has been said about the new Springbok “team culture” from an assortment of players experienced and rookies alike.
However, one man who knows a lot about team culture and the influence it has on a Springbok team is veteran scrumhalf Francois Hougaard.
Hougaard is one of three players, along with Tendai Mtawarira and Frans Steyn, that is playing under their third Springbok coach and the former Bulls scrumhalf is singing the praises of his teammates and the “culture” that has turned around the fortunes of the team.
“I think the guys really believe in where we are going and what we are doing and we have everyone on the same page and making everyone understand what it is about.
"It is not about the individual but more about the team, not only the 23 but everyone contributes during the week,” Hougaard said after Saturday’s 35-12 win over France at Ellis Park.
In getting his way back into the Springbok side, Hougaard has patiently waited his turn and had to play behind Ross Cronje after Springbok coach Allister Coetzee hauled him back from the wilderness after being unceremoniously dumped by previous coach Heyneke Meyer on the eve of the 2015 Rugby World Cup.
Hougaard, who plies his trade in England for the Worcester, believes the strength of the current crop of Springboks is in the collective instead of individuals and that has been the secret of turning around a woeful 2016 season to the series whitewash against France.
“It is easy to be positive when you are in the starting line-up or match day 23 but when you have to hold the bags week in and week out and being disappointed that you don’t play, that is when your character shows.
"Big up to the guys who haven’t had a game in the last three weeks, we feel for them and those are the guys who make the Springbok side. They test us on defence and give us good practice at the end of the day. We are all working together towards the same goal. We all take it week for week.
"Luckily, we won this Test series 3-0 but there is still a lot to work on. The culture in the team is getting stronger. It is easy to throw the word brotherhood around but the guys are really feeling for one another. It is not about being friends, the guys really get to know each other, their families, kids and wives. I think it is much deeper than."