Rugby World Cup 2011
Louw in from the cold for RWC?
Francois Louw (Gallo Images)
Johannesburg - Flank Francois Louw could be a surprise inclusion in South Africa's Rugby World Cup squad to be named on Tuesday.
Named in a preliminary 49-strong Springbok squad two months ago, Louw was injured, quit Western Province for English club Bath and disappeared off the World Cup radar.
But the need to cover outstanding but injury-prone open-side loose forward Heinrich Brussow has forced coach Peter de Villiers to reconsider 26-year-old Louw.
Most squad speculation ahead of the night-time squad announcement at a studio of satellite sports channel SuperSport centres on the back-up lock and the final piece of the loose-forwards jigsaw.
Long-serving Victor Matfield and Bakkies Botha are the first-choice locks with Johann Muller from Irish province Ulster and Gerhard Mostert of Paris-based Stade Francais seeking a back-up role.
Pundits believe Muller has the edge although Mostert impressed last month on Tri-Nations duty in New Zealand, where the World Cup will be staged during September and October.
Brussow, Schalk Burger, Willem Alberts, play-anywhere Danie Rossouw and eighthman Pierre Spies should get back-row slots, leaving one vacancy.
Louw, livewire Ashley Johnson and hard-man Jean Deysel, another to do well on a Tri-Nations tour of Australia and New Zealand where many reputations slumped, appear the chief contenders.
The choice of backs seems more obvious although Ruan Pienaar, who can operate at fly- or scrumhalf, should consider himself fortunate to be in contention after a poor Tri-Nations away leg.
Young Patrick Lambie, who can play at fullback, centre or flyhalf, injured his shoulder in a win over a virtual New Zealand 'B' team last Saturday and his withdrawal would be a major blow.
Flair has become a collectors' item in a Springbok backline which failed to score even one try in home Tri-Nations Tests against the Wallabies and All Blacks.
Unlike many team-mates who try to go through rather than round an opponent, Lambie possesses abundant flair and is also a good goal kicker.
The squad is likely to contain 12 of the starting line-up in the 2007 World Cup final victory over England in Paris with retired Percy Montgomery and Os du Randt and injured Juan Smith the absentees.
Another five of the Cup-winning squad are virtually certain of places on the jet from Johannesburg to Auckland.
Possible Springbok squad:
Francois Steyn (Racing Metro/FRA), Patrick Lambie (Sharks), JP Pietersen (Sharks), Gio Aplon (Western Province), Jaque Fourie (Province), Jean de Villiers (Province), Juan de Jongh (Province), Bryan Habana (Province), Lwazi Mvovo (Sharks), Morne Steyn (Blue Bulls), Butch James (Golden Lions), Fourie du Preez (Bulls), Francois Hougaard (Bulls), Ruan Pienaar (Ulster/NIR)
Tendai 'Beast' Mtawarira (Sharks), Gurthro Steenkamp (Bulls), John Smit (Sharks, capt), Bismarck du Plessis (Sharks), Chiliboy Ralepelle (Bulls), Jannie du Plessis (Sharks), CJ van der Linde (Lions), Bakkies Botha (Bulls), Victor Matfield (Bulls, vice-capt), Johann Muller (Ulster/NIR) or Gerhard Mostert (Stade Francais/FRA), Dannie Rossouw (Bulls), Willem Alberts (Sharks), Schalk Burger (Province), Heinrich Brussow (Free State Cheetahs), Francois Louw (Bath/ENG) or Ashley Johnson (Cheetahs) or Jean Deysel (Sharks), Pierre Spies (Bulls)