Springbok flank Francois Louw bows out in style with a World Cup winners' medal
Springbok flank Francois Louw has dropped the curtain on a career largely spent in the shadows.
Apart from having to operate in the nether regions of the ruck‚ the latter part of Louw’s career was spent as a substitute allowing captain Siya Kolisi’s career to take off and soar.
Fulfilling the role as fetcher is in itself a selfless act but Louw was naturally pleased he could end his career on an extraordinary high.
“It does cap my career. It was officially my final game for South Africa – 76 games‚ 10 years‚ I couldn’t have asked for anything bigger‚ anything more special‚” said the Bath backrower.
Given the 10-year span of his career‚ Louw got to experience some of Springbok rugby’s best and worst.
“It was a very long road‚ a challenging road at times.
"We’ve had two very dark years in Springbok rugby history and to come back the way we did‚ to form a united team the way we did – a team that fully represents South Africa and win a World Cup with that is something I will cherish for the rest of my life‚” said Louw.
Winning the Rugby World Cup at his third attempt was hugely satisfying for the 34-year old.
“I got knocked out in a quarterfinal in 2011‚ a semifinal in 2015‚ and I’m glad I didn’t get knocked out in a final‚" he said.
"To win it is fantastic and it was a tough road after the start we had to our World Cup campaign (losing to New Zealand).
“It was knockout rugby after that and it was tight against Wales. The guys approached this week with the right mindset‚ and things went our way.”
The final‚ which South Africa won comfortably 32-12‚ drifted somewhat off the script many had envisaged.
Louw believes dissecting the opposition is important but that the key remains execution.
“Analysis has a big role to play – everyone analyses everyone else’s games‚" he said.
"Everyone believes they have the inside scoop to the opposition‚ but you’ve still got to play 80 minutes of rugby.
“The final was our day.
"We managed to outplay them in various facets and that resulted in the victory.”
He said the Springboks didn’t have to deviate much from what they had done earlier in the tournament.
What they offered was always in plain view but knowing that they bring a huge forward challenge and stopping it is easier said than done.
“We didn’t change things too much‚" he said.
"We had a few tricks up our sleeve and every team will alter their game plan slightly for certain fixtures.
"A few things went our way a bit more than in other games.
"The set-piece‚ our scrum was magnificent‚ to say the least. To get set-piece penalties in a final‚ I don’t think you can ask much more from your tight-five.
“As a back-row‚ I’ve got to say they also play a role in the scrums.
"England put us under pressure at the lineout and we also got our maul going – we got it going once or twice. It was not effective as we would’ve wanted it to be.”
Louw bows out of the international game with dignity and will retreat deeper into the shadows‚ not before however‚ restoring Springbok rugby to its rightful place in the sun.