Sharks’ Marius Louw brings energy to the No 12 jersey
DURBAN - One of the big positives the Sharks will take out of their scrambled 19-16 victory over the Lions on Friday night was the impressive performance of Marius Louw in stepping into the chasm created by Andre Esterhuizen’s departure to the UK.
The big Springbok No 12 was one of only a few changes to the Sharks squad that did such fine duty in Super Rugby earlier this year but it is potentially a very significant change given the unusual physical dimensions of Esterhuizen, the form he was in and the experience he had gathered over seven years at the Sharks.
The contenders to fill the void are Louw and Jeremy Ward, both 24, with the latter having the bigger reputation because of his exploits in age group rugby as the captain of the SA Under-20 team in 2016.
Six years ago, Louw came to the Sharks Academy as a flank, straight out of Grey College in Bloemfontein, and the decision was taken to transform him into an abrasive centre from a smallish loose forward, which has been a success although game time has been reasonably scarce because of the presence of Esterhuizen, obviously, and the arrival from Port Elizabeth of Ward.
When Esterhuizen left for Harlequins, coach Sean Everitt laid down the challenge of replacing him with Ward and Louw.
In the SuperFan Saturday match against the Bulls two weeks ago, Ward started ahead of Louw but when the former was carded for a high tackle, Louw came on and made enough of an impact for Everitt to pick him to start against the Lions for the Super Rugby Unlocked opener.
And after the Sharks’ win, Everitt was pleased with his call.
“I thought Marius went really well,” Everitt said. “We spoke during the week about his selection at No 12 and about the energy he brings to the team, and he certainly had that against the Lions.
“He was everywhere on the field - making tackles, taking high balls, working hard at the breakdowns - and that is something we need from our centres especially now that we no longer have the bulk of an Andre Esterhuizen, so I am very happy with how Marius went.”
Everitt added that Louw’s work rate made up for the disparity in size between him and Esterhuizen (95kg vs 115kg).
“You can bring physicality in various ways - you don’t have to be Andre’s size. I think Marius did the job really well and I must say that when Jeremy came on, he continued that energy, so we are happy that both had a good run, and long may this duel continue,” Everitt said,
It can be said that it is Louw who has move into pole position in the race to secure the Sharks No 12 jersey, but don’t discount the fight in Ward just yet. The Sharks enjoy a bye this week and then play the Bulls in Pretoria in the third round.