Springbok Francois Hougaard was rewarded for the ultimate act of sportsmanship and team values by giving away his Olympic medal to an injured teammate when the dual international star was handed an unexpected surprise on Thursday – his own bronze medal.
Hougaard was called up to join Team SA’s Rugby Sevens side for the final day’s play at the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro last month as a replacement to Seabelo Senatla, who injured his wrist on day two of the three day tournament.
The versatile Bok star played in the semifinal against Great Britain and the third-place play-off against Japan with Senatla in the stands. A couple of hours later, Hougaard was on the podium to receive one of the 12 medals given to the players.
As he departed for South Africa the next day, he insisted that Senatla, who played in all the tournaments leading up to the Games, should take the bronze medal, as he felt the winger deserved it more, being the standout player for the team all year. Hougaard then left Rio without a medal.
Thanks to some requests and work behind the scenes from Team SA and SASCOC officials, Rugby Sevens team manager Ashley Evert, as well as Hari Coelho, medal ceremonies manager in Rio, and Marjorie Enya, competition services manager, an extra medal was found and dispatched to South Africa.
The medal was given to Hougaard, upon the Springbok touring squad assembly for the Castle Lager Rugby Championship matches in Brisbane and Christchurch and prior to departure to Australia.
Fellow Team SA bronze medallist and Springbok Juan de Jongh handed Hougaard his medal, much to the surprise of the player.
“This is a wonderful surprise, and something I really didn’t expect,” said Hougaard.
“When I gave the medal the Seabelo, I felt he deserved it more than I did, and I still feel so, but having played a part in Rio, I’m very grateful to have received this medal, and I would like to thank everyone involved in making it possible. It’s something I will cherish for many years as one of the best moments of my rugby career.”