Cape Town - Elrigh Louw is a strapping young man built for rugby – 1.95m tall and 112kg of pure muscle, and a machine with ball-in-hand for the Bulls.
The 22-year-old’s barnstorming performances at firstly blindside flank and then No 8 over the past 12 months and more resulted in many critics whispering his name for possible inclusion in the Springbok squad, but it didn’t happen.
Pieter-Steph du Toit’s injury during the British and Irish Lions series opened up a gap at No 7, while No 8 Duane Vermeulen was also not yet ready for that tournament.
But instead, Bok coach Jacques Nienaber opted for Franco Mostert and later Kwagga Smith at blindside flank, while Smith and Jasper Wiese also operated at the back of the scrum until Vermeulen was fit again.
Louw, though, continued putting in the hard graft, and has developed into a top-class No 8 after excelling at No 7 previously.
And that Bok dream is still burning brightly. There are two years to go to the 2023 Rugby World Cup, so Louw has to make another impression on Nienaber as quickly as possible – starting with Saturday’s United Rugby Championship clash against Munster at Loftus Versfeld (7.45pm kickoff).
“At this stage, I found my place at eight here at the Bulls. I won’t say I am just an eight – I can definitely (play at) seven as well,” Louw said from Pretoria this week.
“And I think for the rest of my life, I will wake up every day with a Springbok ambition. So, I don’t think that passion or my dream of mine will ever go out of the window – it doesn’t matter how long it takes.
“Personally, I feel very, very good… in very good shape. We’ve been working hard on our individual skills and sharpening up over the past few weeks. The team will be sharper now that we know what’s coming, hey. It’s on Loftus, it’s our fortress, so ja, it’s going to be a good game.”
Munster won’t have a number of their Irish Test players such as Peter O’Mahony, Tadhg Beirne, Joey Carbery, Craig Casey, Andrew Conway, Keith Earls, Dave Kilcoyne and Conor Murray, who were on international duty last weekend, as well as Springbok centre Damian de Allende.
But they are still filled with internationals, such as utility back Simon Zebo and former Stormers lock Jean Kleyn, as well as Springbok lock Jason Jenkins, while ex-Southern Kings openside flank Chris Cloete will also look to make an impact at the breakdowns.
So, it will be a tough challenge for the Bulls, but they will want to get one back against an Irish side after defeats to Leinster and Connacht on their European tour.
“I won’t say we are out to prove a point, but our guys have their own goals, and we want to prove ourselves against the guys here at Loftus,” Louw said.
“I rate them (Munster) quite highly. They are obviously a very classy side, and with a coaching staff like that, you can never underestimate them. So, I think they are going to bring a good kicking game, and a very good game on the ground and in the rucks.
“WP (Stormers) actually had them under the pump, and I think if I remember correctly, Munster came back in the second half with penalties and maul tries.
“I don’t think they are unbeatable at all – I think if we focus on our things, we stand a good chance. We gained a lot of experience with the tour we were on – everything didn’t go the way we wanted to, but that is how you learn.”