DURBAN - Bath-based 33-year-old Francois Louw has been a pretty steady force in and around the Springboks for a number of years. He has amassed 57 Tests since 2010 and seen a lot of things come and go in the national side.
Now, under Rassie Erasmus, a coach he has worked with before in the colours of the Stormers, the veteran Bok has noted a new energy and attention to detail in a Bok squad that has offered a lot of potential to fans.
But Louw has also re-entered the squad with a lot of expectation from his coach who is looking for not only his to-the-ball style of play, but also to contribute to a growing leadership culture that is maturing in the team.
Louw has played under three Springbok coaches, each very different, and each in very different eras; from Pieter de Villiers through Heyneke Meyer and most recently with Allister Coetzee. What this has allowed the flanker is an eye for the changes that seem to be prevalent under Erasmus.
“There is a underlying energy within this side,” Louw explained. “Ultimately, that does come from the top and Rassie has brought that in. There is an immense focus on detail and accuracy around that, and the squad that has been put together has all completely bought into it.
“It requires a lot of hard work and guys are buying into that and putting in the effort. I have no doubt it was a major factor in those previous Tests, to allow them to win that England series, and it is something I hope to build on.
“Guys are excited to play, and they want to be here and prove themselves, and the depth in the squad also allows the guys to drive each other to push their own abilities and limits and to be better players individually and as a collective.”
OD and Springbok Francois Louw was named man of the match in Bath's epic 26-21 victory over Toulon in the Champions Cup. Pictured with Bok teammate Duane Vermeulen after the match. Well done Flo! pic.twitter.com/TGSsTusjWd— Bishops Rugby (@Bishops_Rugby) December 17, 2017
While it is interesting to get a veteran player’s view point of a new start for the Boks, it is just as interesting to see why the coach is bringing back a player boasting eight seasons with the Boks. Louw’s ability on the field cannot be questioned; he is a special player that likes to go towards the ball, but it would seem that he has been brought in for something more than just jackeling loose ball.
“As a player, Rassie just wants me to do what I do best, and then do it better!” Louw chuckled. “I need to stick to my game, we all have a purpose in the side, and ultimately the focus is on building a squad that will take us to the World Cup and win the World Cup. Over the last few games different combinations have been tried out and that will happen going forward but that will be up to the coach to decide how and when those play out.”
What Louw also really adds is experience for a leadership culture that is being purpose built. Siya Kolisi is a new captain, and even the likes of previous captains in Warren Whiteley and Eben Etzebeth are still very new to the role, thus, a core culture is emanating support.
“From a leadership perspective, we had a meeting, and there’s a lot more leaders in this side than people realise,” Louw added. “You think a leader is someone with 50 or 100 tests, but it is not necessarily the case.
“There is a lot of guys who have been involved in World Cups before, young guys coming through, and they have all stepped up to the plate, but ultimately what we want to create is a leadership culture rather than having senior players commanding the younger boys and putting people in places. We want it to be bred from inside of the team and then filtered out so that everyone takes charge and commands their position.”