Francois Hougaard: Worcester Warriors can 'go big places', says South African
Worcester Warriors scrum-half Francois Hougaard predicts that there could be a lot more to come at Sixways next season - if they can complete their relegation escape for a second season running.
Hougaard's arrival last season sparked a timely run of four straight wins which kept Warriors in the Premiership.
And it was his great try which sparked Sunday's home win over Bristol, making Worcester favourites to stay up again.
"It's quite sad where we are, but watch this space," the 28-year-old said.
"We're going big places. We have a special thing going here. It was a massive team effort to beat Bristol. They're a quality side and we had to dig deep and finish them off. But, if we can fix the small mistakes, we can be a team to be reckoned with."
Hougaard's return at the start of February from the shoulder injury he suffered on autumn international duty with South Africa helped to trigger a vital home win over Saracens. And Sunday's win now leaves them seven points clear of Bristol with five games of the season left for both teams.
Hougaard is world class - Gold
"Hougaard was outstanding," said Warriors director of rugby Gary Gold. "He is genuinely world class. He gives us that X-factor.
"We are very lucky to have him, but he will be the first to admit he had a great platform set by the pack after the destruction of the Bristol scrum. The Bristol pack were nervous of our pack, there were two errors and Hougaard took full advantage."
"I didn't know what I was going to do," said Hougaard. "I take it as it comes. Nothing is planned, it just happens naturally. The best ball I can ask for is an overthrow at a line-out as there's no real defence in place.
"The shoulder feels great. It was hard to be sat on the sidelines, but a lot of hard work has paid off now. And, even though I've played 39 times for South Africa, I'm still learning things every day."
Gold's Midas touch at Sixways
Worcester boss Gold still does not believe that Warriors are safe yet, given the two side's respective run-ins, especially as Bristol still have three home games to Warriors' two. "I don't think they're going to roll over," he said.
But three of Bristol's last five matches are against the current top three, Wasps, Exeter and Saracens. And, although Worcester must also face Wasps, as well as fourth-placed Bath and sixth-placed Leicester, they also face two of the three sides immediately above them, Sale and Newcastle, both away from home.
The feeling is that one more win should do it - and Hougaard has no doubt about the beneficial effect that Gold has already had at Sixways,
"It's been a clear message from him," Hougaard told BBC Hereford & Worcester. "It's pretty simple. It's about how badly you want it. It's just about being on the same page and all going in the same direction.
"I don't want to go on about relegation. Nobody likes to be at the bottom. But we tried to take pressure and turn it into a positive."
The last five Premiership matches
|Friday 24 March Gloucester (h)|
|Sunday 26 March Wasps (a)|
|Friday 7 April Sale (a)|
|Saturday 8 April Exeter (a)|
|Saturday 15 April Bath (h)|
|Sunday 16 April Wasps (h)|
|Friday 28 April Newcastle (a)|
|Saturday 29 April Saracens (a)|
|Saturday 6 May Leicester (h)||Saturday 6 May Newcastle (h)|