Francois Louw says plying his trade overseas has made him a better player, but turning out for the Springboks will always be the ‘ultimate’, writes CRAIG LEWIS.
Louw joined English club Bath in 2011, but he remained an integral member of the Springbok squad for the majority of Heyneke Meyer’s tenure over the past four years, with the former Bok coach acknowledging that the openside flanker offered unique strengths.
The 30-year-old is also just one of three overseas-based players Allister Coetzee included in his first squad for the series against Ireland, although it will be interesting to see whether Louw or Lions star Jaco Kriel is entrusted with the No 6 jersey for the opening Test against Ireland on Saturday.
Chatting to the media at the team hotel in Cape Town on Sunday, Louw – who has rejoined the Boks after a post-season break in England – said he felt especially grateful to be back in the national set-up.
‘Playing for the Springboks is the ultimate for any South African rugby player and I’m very fortunate and honoured to be back here again. It’s never a given. Obviously I play my rugby overseas and I do have a view on that because I think it has brought out the best in me as a player. I think I’ve grown substantially on and off the field, and those skills and attributes are something I can hopefully continue to add to the team.
‘I can understand the reasoning behind wanting to select domestically-based players as well, but whenever I do get the opportunity to play for the Boks, I’ll give it everything I’ve got,’ he added. ‘When Allister spoke to me a few weeks ago and asked how I saw my future and whether I still wanted to be available for Bok selection, it was an easy answer, and I’m just so excited to be here.’
Coetzee, who coached Louw at the Stormers and Western Province, said he had no doubt the flanker would continue to add plenty of value to the Boks.
‘He’s really grown into a versatile loose forward who has great skills on the ground and carries the ball well. I’m pleased to have his skill set in the team and in combination with the other loose forwards. I think we can select a really exciting loose trio combination to face Ireland.’
Although Coetzee has previously inferred that ideally he would like to first look at locally-based players when it comes to his selections going forward, he’s also made it clear that the door will never be completely closed to those who continue to impress overseas.
‘The focus for the overseas-based players now just has to be on what’s coming this weekend. We’re busy at SA Rugby formulating policy [regarding the selection of overseas-based players] and then that will be communicated to the players and the public. But that’s not the focus at the moment; we just want them to feel like any other player and to really play to their potential against Ireland.’
Photo: Steve Haag/Gallo Images