Francois Louw is excited by the prospect of resuming his back-row partnership with fellow flanker Siya Kolisi when the Boks host Argentina this Saturday. CRAIG LEWIS reports from Durban.
The composition of the loose trio has been one of the talking points in the lead-up to the Boks’ Rugby Championship opener, with Louw returning to the mix after missing out on the June Test series due to injury.
Although Bok coach Rassie Erasmus suggested last week that Louw could be an option at No 8, the 33-year-old looks set to slot into his more specialist role at openside flank at the start of the Rugby Championship.
This move will prompt a shift for Kolisi into the No 7 jersey, while Warren Whiteley should start his first Test match at eighthman since aggravating an injury during last year’s June Test series against France.
It’s the sort of back row that would see Kolisi taking on more responsibility in the physical exchanges, with Louw playing to the ball, and Whiteley fulfilling a linking role, while adding another option at lineout time.
Talking to the media at the Bok team hotel on Tuesday, Louw highlighted what strengths set these players apart.
‘Having played with Siya before, I know he can be immensely physical. We play quite a different sort of game. Personally, I think he’s a bit more of a ball-carrier, but he’s also got pace and a big presence on defence. I’m more breakdown focused, and perhaps play a bit tighter.
‘Warren is a fantastic player, and offers a great lineout option. I guess you could say he’s a back trapped in a forwards’ body. He links between the forwards and backs really well, he’s good in the outside channels and really gets all over the park. Warren has an immense work rate, and pitches up every time to give an 80-minute performance.’
Bok forwards coach Matt Proudfoot sat alongside Louw at Tuesday’s press conference, and pointed out just how influential the Bath stalwart can be at the breakdown.
‘Flo was incredible on the end-of-year tour when he came in. A lot of people look at our No 6 as just a fetcher, but he does so much work at the attacking breakdown to create quick ball, and interlinks well with the backs.
‘What has always impressed me is his attention to detail and doing extra homework. He’s not just a strong, powerful forward, but he’s learned the tricks of the trade when it comes to the breakdown. He’s brought a lot of knowledge into this team, and doesn’t want to just achieve for himself, but to improve the entire environment.’
Proudfoot added that the Bok coaches had spoken long and hard about what the best back-row combination might be at the start of the tournament.
‘It’s a vital combination to get right, you need to have the balance of physicality and the ability to go wide. Loose forwards have increased roles in the modern game, they have to run like backs and create width, and the good thing is that we have guys with different skill-sets who are quite versatile and can adapt. I’m looking forward to seeing how this combination performs.’
— SA Rugby magazine (@SARugbymag) August 14, 2018
Photo: Muzi Ntombela/BackpagePix