BLOEMFONTEIN – It has been two weeks since the Springboks lost 57-0 to the All Blacks in Albany yet it is a result that just won’t go away.
No matter what happens today in the Rugby Championship Test against Australia here today, “57-0” will still be there, as it will be next week and the week after that. It’s not going to go away - ever. And it hurts the Bok players, even those who weren’t there and part of it. Just ask Francois Louw.
The Bok flanker wasn’t in the squad two weeks ago but he’s back in the mix today after coming into the group as a replacement for the injured Jaco Kriel.
He’s a seasoned campaigner with over 50 Tests to his credit, who’ll bring experience and leadership to the Bok group. And while he’s experienced many highs and lows in his career – for Western Province and the Stormers and also for Bath in England, his current club – 57-0 stung.
“It was very disappointing and even though I was not a part of it, I felt partly responsible simple because I have been involved in so many Tests and am a Springbok,” said the 32-year-old.
He added that the Boks simply had to fight back to restore their pride and ensure the 100-plus year rivalry between the teams stayed intact.
“It’s our biggest rivalry and at no stage, for the sake of rugby, should we lose that special battle with the All Blacks. It’s very important that we get back to a level playing field and are competitive against them.”
But the All Blacks, who visit Newlands in seven days’ time, are next week’s worries; for now, the focus of the Boks is on the Wallabies and putting behind them that performance of two weeks ago.
Louw, who the younger Bok players will look to for some sort of inspiration today, said there was no more pressure on him now than for any other Test match.
However, he admitted the team was under the microscope.
“There’s always pressure coming into the Bok squad,” he said.
“There’s a high expectancy for us to win, especially in the Rugby Championship, and after the tough tour the guys had there’s some pressure to do well, to bounce back.
“We need to turn things around. There’s been a focus on that this week,and the collective response has been good.
“The guys have been hurting, but I see that as a good thing; it shows that they care and that’s the type of culture you want in a side, that the players will do whatever they can to make things right.
“We as Bok players recognise that responsibility. The reality is we need to get some wins under the belt.”
These may not be ideal circumstances in the team to return to for Louw, but as a player who has virtually only played for the Boks in his career as an “overseas-based Bok”, every opportunity is a good one.
He’s been at Bath since 2011, but such a quality player is he that Peter de Villiers, Heyneke Meyer and Allister Coetzee have all picked him over the years.
“Being a non-contracted Bok who’s been overseas for some time, I take things as they come,” said Louw.
“Every opportunity is a great opportunity... I’m very pleased I can still be involved.
“I don’t know what the future holds. I can only play as best I can and not give them a reason to not select me.
“My club (Bath) means a lot to me, but being able to play for the Boks remains my first love, so I am somewhat torn between the two.”
Louw will again feature in Cape Town next week and then also possibly in November when the Boks tour Europe for four Tests.