Francois Louw has opened up on his relationship with Siya Kolisi and the acceptance of playing a supporting role to the Springbok captain.
Louw was in discussion with SuperSport commentator Matthew Pearce in a wide-ranging interview about his 13-year career in the top flight.
When Kolisi arrived at Western Province in 2010, Louw was a core member of their starting lineup before he left for Bath in 2011. Internationally, Louw was part of a back row – with Duane Vermeulen and Willem Alberts – that had started the highest number of times together as a Springbok trio.
However, in the latter stages of his Test career, Louw saw his role with the Springboks change as Kolisi started to cement a place in the starting lineup before being named Bok captain in 2018.
‘It was an interesting development,’ Louw said. ‘Obviously, every player wants to start. You want to be in the starting lineup and play the full 80 and be the one that’s made the difference – at least in your teammates’ eyes.
‘Siya and I have come a long way. From provincial days, him being a young lad there, working his way through the ranks. We have always had a very good relationship, we are very good friends. I moved along and came overseas. He filled that spot on the flank as I left. Our paths crossed again internationally. He was on the bench, playing behind me. He obviously covered all the positions in the back row.
‘Towards the end of 2018, he started to establish himself as a starter in the side. Rassie favoured him and appointed him captain. Initially as an interim for the Rugby Championship and then permanently and he would lead us to the World Cup.’
Louw would become an integral member of the now famous ‘Bomb Squad’ – the title given to the Springboks’ substitutes, who would have a big impact at the 2019 World Cup. He memorably won a breakdown penalty in the closing stages of the semi-final against Wales that allowed the Springboks to escape a defensive position and give them the chance to win the match.
He explained that while it was initially tough to accept that he would not be starting in as many Tests again, he knew it was for the greater good.
‘I have to honestly say that I obviously wanted to start,’ Louw said. ‘But there was a bigger picture in place. I had a role to do within the squad. I had to really develop my ability to play No 8. I played more games for the Springboks at No 8 than any other side that I have played for.
‘At times I was maybe a bit disappointed but you have to pull yourself to the side and say that we want what’s best. You need to understand your role within this machine. I had to quickly come to terms with that and I accepted that. There was never any animosity or grudge between myself and Siya. In fact, we supported each other quite well.
‘Really, what put him in that position of ultimate praise from his team was his humility in both carrying the team as captain and a positional perspective, never thinking that he has made that shirt his. He would always ask my opinion. We might argue about things but it was arguing in the right way, to try to find the best solution. We would look at games together and ensure that what’s in place is what everyone wants.
‘I have a lot of respect for him in that way. I am actually just so happy for the guy. What a journey he has had.’
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