Can Louw help make Boks great again?
IN THE SPOTLIGHT: Loose forward Francois Louw wants to help the Springboks restore their status as a team to fear on the international stage.
Louw, who will make his first appearance for the Springboks this season in the No.7 jersey against the Wallabies in Bloemfontein on Saturday, admitted that the Springboks' last performance (a 0-57 defeat) against the All Blacks was a hard pill to swallow.
It was South Africa's biggest defeat ever in Test rugby and Louw feels that he and his teammates have a responsibility to restore a great rivalry to what it once was.
"There is no doubt that it [0-57 defeat] is very disappointing," said Louw. "Even though I wasn't involved in that game I still feel partly responsible.
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"I've been involved with the Springboks every year now since 2010. I have been involved in many Tests against the All Blacks - that's South Africa's biggest rivalry. There is something special about that game and at no stage do want, for the sake of rugby, to lose that special battle, that special derby game that we have against the All Blacks.
"I think it is very important for us to get back to a level playing field, to be competitive and hopefully win, but to match them in every encounter that we face them going forward.
"There is a lot of pressure on us to do that. I believe we are on the right track. Only time will tell if we get there, but things are being put into place for us to get back to where the Springboks should be."
The 32-year-old flank, who was still playing Premiership rugby for Bath last weekend, was rushed back into the squad after Jaco Kriel was ruled out for six months with a shoulder injury.
Many see Louw as a like-for-like replacement for the injured Kriel. However, Louw believes they are two different players when it comes to their roles.
"I think Jaco is a great player. I think we play a little bit of a different game, to be honest. We've all got our strengths and weaknesses, but he has been fantastic for the Boks.
"There is no doubt that he is solid Springbok. A lot of guys get a couple of games and sort of disappear off the scene, but he has taken his opportunities and done really well.
"He is definitely a loss for us as a side. I'm not sure where we are similar or not, but he is missed," Louw added.
Turning his attention to the Wallabies, Louw knows that the Wallabies have plenty of talent in their loose trio to trouble the Boks on Saturday.
"They are very active on the field. [Sean] McMahon is a solid player, a good ball carrier and he has been pretty good for them thus far in the Championship.
"[Michael] Hooper is a great player as well. They rely on him both on attack and on defence. We expect him to be quite lively.
"But in saying that as well, not to sound too cliché, we will focus on our game. We are not going to be chasing opposition players and trying to shut them out.
"We will focus on our defences, stick to our system and on attack, we will try and execute our plays effectively and force them to try and stop that," said Louw.
By Warren Fortune