Cape Town - In an exclusive interview, former Western
Province and Springbok flank ROB LOUW on
Duane Vermeulen’s defection, terrible TMOs and the quarter-final showdown at
Newlands on Saturday.
asked: Since your final Test for South Africa in 1984,
how has loose forward play evolved?
Louw: I don’t believe loose forward play has
evolved, I just think that we have gone backwards in terms of the way we play.
At present, most South African coaches are picking loose forwards with the self-same
attributes rather than selecting players who complement each other as a
combination. When it comes to loose forward combinations, you have to have a
linker, a runner and a fetcher. The Lions are the South African team that is
closest to the ideal balance in terms of combination play.
asked: The Baby Boks crashed out of the Junior World Championship after losing
to England in the semi-final. What ultimately undermined South Africa’s
Louw: While the Baby Boks went unbeaten throughout
the pool stage of the tournament, the warning signs were there from the start.
South Africa knows how to bully and bash opponents, and they did just that
against Australia. However, when they faced off against England, who stood up
to them physically, they didn’t appear to have any answers. School sides in
South Africa boast such great skill, but that seems to suddenly get lost when
graduating to under-20 level. I believe our young players at junior national
level are over-coached and over-gymed. A very important part of rugby is
agility – the ability to move off your feet quickly – but our players are
losing that skill. Saru have to seriously re-look our global playing strategy,
because we can no longer get away with bullying sides. If we want to become
world leaders, we have to add more strings to our bow.
asked: You’ve said, “The TMO worldwide is a joke.” What solutions would you
Louw: I like the idea of a centralised TMO situated
in a bunker away from the stadium, because the TMO in its current guise is
clearly influenced by the crowd. It has become a difficult situation, because a
lot of the TMOs that sit inside the boxes weren’t top referees. At this stage,
a worrying trend is that the TMOs are seemingly more important than the man in
the middle. For me, Jonathan Kaplan would be ideally suited to the TMO role as
he possesses common sense and vast experience.
asked: Jerry Collins has been laid to rest. As a former flanker, what facets of
his play did you most admire? Over your playing career, which individual did
you most fear facing?
Louw: My abiding memory of Jerry Collins is of him
almost cutting Colin Charvis in half courtesy of a bone-crunching tackle. I
will never forget that tackle as long as I live. Collins wasn’t the biggest of
men, but he cut his opponents down to size. He was as hard as nails and wore
his heart on his sleeve. Collins wasn’t the most skilful player, but was an
unbelievably tough opponent and everyone had respect for the way he played. Off
the field, Collins was a special guy and the reaction to his passing from
around the world proves what an impressive player and person he was.
Jean-Pierre Rives would be the toughest opponent I came up against during my
playing career. The Frenchman was a hero of mine and a special player. I later
had the privilege of playing with him for a world side.
asked: Duane Vermeulen has signed a three-year deal with Toulon. What’s your
Louw: I’m very happy for Duane. Modern players go
in search of the golden carrot, and it’s great to see a guy like him afforded
the opportunity to make really top-end money. Duane has been playing
unbelievably consistent rugby and is the best number eight in the world. To
compare Kieran Read to Vermeulen, the former plays very wide and is renowned
for an offloading type of game, whereas the latter fetches and turns the ball
over. Duane is a colossus, gives 200 percent in every match and puts would-be
contenders for World Cup selection in the shade. His defection to France is
certainly a massive loss for Western Province, but thankfully he’s not lost to
South African rugby.
asked: John Plumtree has been linked with the Stormers post. Would he be the
Louw: I believe Plumtree would do brilliantly with
the Stormers, but I don’t think he will easily get involved because of all
political infighting that occurs in South African rugby. Take Nick Mallett as a prime example – he should be coaching, but
won’t in this country because of the politics involved.
asked: Share your love for surfing and why you rate Kelly Slater as “the best
Louw: I have surfed since my school days and
surfing remains a passion of mine. I have never been a gym bunny. When I played
professionally, I would turn out for Western Province or the Springboks on a
Saturday and on the Sunday, I would get into my combi and head to the beach in
search of the biggest waves. It’s ironic, because I never broke my ribs while
playing rugby but in January, I managed to crack three ribs while surfing in
Stilbaai. As far as Slater is concerned, the man is a phenomenon. At 43 years
of age, he still competing against, and beating, the best in the world. The
fact that he came second on the World Tour last year speaks for
itself. He is an incredible competitor and is unbelievably fit. His longevity
in the sport is down to a clean lifestyle. I don’t think the world of sport
will ever see an athlete quite like him again. He is simply the best ever.
asked: The Stormers and Brumbies are pitted in a rematch at Newlands. Who will
Louw: The Brumbies are a difficult side to oppose,
but I’m backing the Stormers to beat the Australians for a second time this
season. When it comes to winning playoff games in the modern era, you have to
possess a proficient driving maul and a solid set scrum. The Stormers boast an
exceptional forward pack and will dominate up front. I see the Stormers
squeezing the life out of the Brumbies. The Stormers’ forwards have really
stepped up and their tight play has improved tenfold.
Roger De Sa
Hennie le Roux
Peter de Villiers
Braam van Straaten
Carel du Plessis
Joe van Niekerk