CENTRE Wynand Olivier is expecting a big season from “settled” scrum-half Francois Hougaard after he called time on his international career.

Hougaard has opted to retire from South Africa duty at the age of 30 in a bid to focus on producing the goods for Worcester Warriors.

The talismanic number nine won 46 caps for his country but his appearances in recent years came at a cost as he sustained injuries that forced him to miss chunks of the past two Premiership seasons.

Olivier, who helped South Africa win the World Cup in 2007, said he understood his fellow countryman’s decision to make himself unavailable for Springbok selection.

And the 35-year-old reckoned Warriors’ fans would see a “different Francois” next term as his team-mate begins pre-season at Sixways.

“Franny is a quality player,” said Olivier who turned out 38 times for South Africa.

“The fact he has decided to stop playing international rugby was a big call. But he made the decision.

“He has been travelling quite a bit over the last couple of years and it does tend to take a toll on the body and on the mind as you can’t settle down anywhere.

“Playing for your country and in the Premiership as well can become too much as your body can’t take it year in year out.

“I understand Franny’s decision that he wants to focus a bit more on Warriors and one or two things off the pitch.

“I know he is settled here as he has got a nice home and is enjoying life.

“It is always a tough decision to make but the time comes for every player to make it eventually however tough it might be.

“There are only a handful of people who can actually understand it.

“Once you step away from the game you want to enjoy memories of the good times and not the injuries.”

Hougaard has been an influential figure for Warriors since he arrived at the club in February 2016.

Although injuries have hampered his availability, the former Blue Bulls ace has still played a key role in guiding Worcester to safety in the last three campaigns.

He has scored six tries in 31 appearances and signed a three-year contract in March as he aims to continue to make a big impact for Alan Solomons’ side.

“Having the likes of Francois around pushes everyone,” Olivier said.

“He makes a massive difference to the team.

“Hopefully he will have a really good pre-season and then push for a spot next season.

“I know there are a couple of other boys, like Luke Baldwin, who are also excited and looking forward to seeing what everyone can bring.

“I think next season is going to be a big one for Francois.

“It was the first time in five or six years where he has actually had a five-week break and will now have a proper pre-season.

“In the last couple of years that has not been possible as he had been travelling from the UK to South Africa and then on to Australia and New Zealand.

“It has been very physical and it drains you mentally so I think you are going to see a different Francois next season.”