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Perth - To stick your head in or not to stick your head in? That is the question for Francois Louw at the breakdowns ahead of Saturday’s Rugby Championship Test between the Springboks and the Wallabies at the Patersons Stadium.
Former Stormers star Louw is expected to be named on the bench today when Bok coach Heyneke Meyer announces his team. But after all the difficulty South Africa encountered at the breakdowns from Argentina in the 16-16 draw in Mendoza, Louw would’ve been a good choice to start as well.
The Boks need a scavenger on the ground to not only win turnovers, but also secure their own possession.
The Wallabies have discovered yet another brilliant fetcher flank in 20-year-old Michael Hooper following the injury to captain David Pocock, and they picked a second fetcher flank on the bench yesterday in Liam Gill, who is also just 20.
“The breakdowns is one of the points that I like to attack in my game. In today’s game, the breakdowns are still a big issue, and the laws are constantly coming and going around that. Often it is the referee’s perception on the day,” the 27-year-old Louw said on Tuesday. “Some are more lenient than others, which is always a difficult thing. You can’t point fingers at anyone, as they are trying to have no grey areas - a clear distinction between right and wrong.
“You’ve got to be 100 percent sure about whether you stick your head in there, rolling away from the tackle, entry, all those things. It’s a fine line that you walk there, and to be effective, you’ve got to sit on that line. But it is a difficult thing to do, and you will be punished with three points if you make a little mistake.”
But while he is good on the ground, Louw is also a dependable lineout option at the back and a strong ball-carrier. With the Boks using their loose forwards mainly to charge into their opponents, Louw could bring some finesse to the team if he comes on to the field.
“Everyone enjoys playing rugby, and that’s actually carrying the ball! Running lines and so on. I will try to get my hands on the ball as much as possible, should I get a chance to play. That is probably the most exciting part of rugby - everyone loves watching a side attack, but there is a time and place for that; first things first,” he said.
“Australia will definitely bring a different game to what I have been playing against in the last couple of months. In terms of a loose forward, your role is the same - you’ve got to hunt those breakdowns, make those tackles, provide options for your backs with running lines and so on.”
His last Bok Test was that fateful 11-9 Rugby World Cup quarter-final defeat against the selfsame Wallabies.
“We need to get points on the board! The World Cup is an emotional time, and both sides gave it their all on the day. I don’t think there’s something specific we need to change with the gameplan for an Australian game,” Louw said.
“It wasn’t a good game in Mendoza, but I won’t say there was panic and everything was being thrown out of the window. As with any team, the most important thing is to stay on task, and have composure - work on your mistakes and fix them, and advance what worked well.”
Louw said that he is enjoying his rugby at Bath, and believes he has become a better, more rounded player. “I have definitely been introduced to a new dimension of rugby,” said Louw, who has 10 Test caps. “You constantly evolve as a player, and you can never sit back and say ‘This is my limit’.
“To be introduced to new styles, players and schools of thought on the game has massively broadened my perspective on the game. You take out elements that suit your game.”