Rugby Championship

A fading 'Flo'? Whoa, there ...

2019-07-23 18:22
Francois Louw
Francois Louw (Gallo Images)

Cape Town - Competition for Springbok loose-forward places is traditionally intense.

The time-honoured hallmark is little different, really, in 2019.

It is reflected in the names in that department currently in the 36-strong squad mix, with another World Cup now less than two months away.

Even with first-choice captain Siya Kolisi yet to be infused as he continues rehabilitation from a knee injury (on track, as he is expected to feature for WP in the Currie Cup shortly), the Bok party features the likes of Duane Vermeulen, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Francois Louw, Marcell Coetzee, Kwagga Smith and Rynhardt Elstadt.

The first four of that half-dozen are already proven, top-notch Test competitors, with Vermeulen certainly embedded among the premier handful of No 8s in world rugby, Du Toit a revelation since his virtually lock, stock and barrel switch from the second row to blindside flank in 2018 - later crowned SA Rugby Player of the Year for it - and Louw and Coetzee sporting a generous 95 caps between them.

Whether this view is shared or not, I had just begun to wonder before the latest, particularly critical Test season whether someone like Louw, now a ripe old 34, would survive the creeping ravages of time to make it to RWC 2019 in Japan.

That was even while taking into account that the Rassie Erasmus regime has been roughly as partial thus far as predecessor Allister Coetzee was to favouring selection of the overseas-based, increasingly versatile loosie.

The Bath and former Stormers/WP player earned eight appearances in Erasmus' maiden season at the helm in 2018 - albeit that five were off the bench - while his tally of caps had also continued to swell quite nicely in the rocky "Toetie" era for two years ahead of it.

Yet it no secret that the national team have had fluctuating fortunes (to put it pretty kindly?) for much of the period subsequent to Heyneke Meyer guiding them to bronze-medal status at the last World Cup in 2015, which was also Louw's second sampling of the biggest tournament of them all.

In that often unstable time results-wise, the back-rower has generally been a steady rather than outright spectacular factor in Test colours - sometimes looking (a subjective statement, granted) as though the demands of week in, week out club activity on the heavy winter surfaces of Europe have taken a bit of a toll on his legs.

*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing


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