Who’s the best openside flank?

Two of our team members pick their No 6 for the SARugbymag.co.za Fans' World XV.

Ryan Vrede

The best players adapt as their primary strength wanes, and Richie McCaw is a prime example of this. No longer the breakdown terrier he was in his pomp, McCaw has morphed into a more rounded player, one still adept at contesting the breakdown (stealing and slowing) but also an effective carrier and brutal and hard-working defender. 

Louw trumps him when it comes to pure breakdown prowess, but with the laws of the game (as they stand) giving less scope for the defending team at the breakdown than they did previously, this isn't the be all and end all of openside play. Certainly Louw is a fantastic player on a number of different fronts, but McCaw's experience gives him an edge in the less quantifiable areas of the game. 

He has an aura Louw is still developing, one that affects the opposition adversely. Any All Blacks team without McCaw is a significantly weakened one. Louw is more athletic, more mobile and can do the razzle dazzle stuff that McCaw rarely tries. But I'd still pick the New Zealand icon ahead of him for all the reasons listed.

Simon Borchardt

Louw grew as a player and a person after moving from Western Province to Bath in 2011, and while he wasn't initially in Heyneke Meyer's Springbok plans, injuries to other players gave him a chance to impress. It was one he took, as his performances against McCaw in two 2012 Rugby Championship matches against the All Blacks changed the coach's mind. He's since become an automatic selection and a vital member of the Bok back row.

Louw is picked ahead of someone like Heinrich Brüssow because he is an all-round flanker. He can steal ball on the ground, but at 1.88m and 112kg he is also a strong ball-carrier who can get over the advantage line and make an impact on defence. Louw also has good leadership qualities, having captained Bath.

The 28-year-old does need to work on his discipline (he picked up two yellow cards in three Tests on the end-of-year tour), but that doesn't prevent me from picking him for my World XV.

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Fans' World XV page

International Rugby Players' Association's 2013 World XV

International Rugby Players' Association's 2013 Fans' World XV

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