SCRUM-HALF Francois Hougaard would face a “big decision” over whether to come out of international retirement should a Rugby World Cup spot become available.

That’s the view of ex-South Africa star Wynand Olivier who believes the form of his Worcester Warriors team-mate has “picked up unbelievably” this season.

Hougaard won 46 caps for his country before calling time on his Springboks career last summer to focus on playing for Warriors.

However in an interview with the Daily Mail in April the Worcester talisman hinted at a possible return to the big stage this autumn.

“You play the game to represent your country, don’t you?” said Hougaard who penned a contract at Warriors in March last year that runs until 2021.

“My deal here is negotiated on the basis that I don’t play for the Springboks but the World Cup is a bit different I guess.

“If it works out with my club and I get to go to the World Cup then great but that is not my focus.”

Due to international commitments Hougaard’s appearances were limited to 31 in his first two-and-a-half seasons at Sixways yet he still played an influential role in helping Worcester avoid relegation each year.

After calling it a day with South Africa the 31-year-old featured 24 times in the 2018-19 campaign and overcame a slow start to propel his side to safety.

His fine performances in the defeat at Wasps and back-to-back victories over Sale Sharks and Gloucester also saw Hougaard win the Premiership player of the month award for April.

Olivier believes the number nine has benefitted from focusing all his attention on club rugby.

But the 35-year-old accepts that Hougaard’s stellar showings may have attracted the attention of national boss Rassie Erasmus.

“It will be exciting for him if he does get the call,” Olivier said.

“It would be a big decision for him to make.

“I think he has embraced the life at Worcester quite well.

“He has come into his own and I think (this season) has just developed his game quite a bit.

“It is quite tough on the body and on the mind when you are travelling back and forth with the Springboks all the time.

“And when he made the decision (to retire) you could see how his game picked up unbelievably.

“It would be a tough decision should it happen but obviously a World Cup year is an exciting time.

“We will see what happens over the next couple of months.”

Erasmus has been keeping a close eye on the Gallagher Premiership with South Africa scrum-halves Cobus Reinach and Faf de Klerk starring for Northampton Saints and Sale Sharks respectively.

Olivier, who has recently hung up his boots, was part of the Springboks side that secured the World Cup in 2007.

But the retired centre expects the strongest challenges to come from England and New Zealand for this year’s crown in Japan.

“England have got a lot of talent and have shown that,” Olivier added.

“If Eddie (Jones, head coach) can pull the troops together it could be exciting for them.

“The All Blacks will be favourites but you never know. The French might throw something in there.

“It will be exciting to watch.”