Boks set to reshuffle back row to accommodate Flo
Winning the breakdown battle is one of the pillars of achieving success in modern rugby‚ whether it be slowing opposition ball‚ or creating quick attacking ball.
And when the Springboks take on Argentina this weekend‚ veteran back rower Francois Louw will go to the well for the 58th time to try and win that skirmish for South Africa.
The Rugby Championship clash in Durban should see a return for Louw‚ 33‚ to the starting lineup after he sat out the June series win over England.
The Boks battled through that series with captain Siya Kolisi at No 6‚ in a role he admits is always a challenge. Kolisi prefers to carry and defend close to the rucks‚ while Louw is more natural at battling on the deck.
The pair are set to play in tandem this weekend‚ with Louw donning the No 6 jersey‚ where he has spent most of his Test career and Kolisi taking on the ball-carrying No 7 role.
But the number on the backs of both Louw and Kolisi won’t alter their approach much‚ as both players have particular strengths. Lions captain Warren Whiteley is likely to start at No 8 this weekend.
"Having played with Siya before‚ I know he can be immensely physical. We play quite a different sort of game‚” Louw said from the team’s Durban base on Tuesday.
“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.”
Forward’s coach Matt Proudfoot didn’t specify what number Louw would wear‚ but regardless‚ his job description won’t alter much.
“Flo was incredible on the end of year tour when he came in‚” Proudfoot said of last year’s tour to Ireland‚ France and Wales. .
“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.
“It’s a vital combination to get right‚ you need to have the balance of physicality and the ability to go wide.
"Looseforwards 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.”
Louw might only be available for the first half of the competition because of club commitments‚ but the influence he could have on the uncapped Marco van Staden will be massive.
Van Staden has been earmarked as the Boks next fetcher and he would benefit from spending time around the experienced Louw.