Louw 'going to ground' against ABs
South African coach Heyneke Meyer has earmarked the breakdown as key to his team's prospects of success in New Zealand this week.
And recalled flank Francois Louw must be the catalyst in this master plan, when the Springboks and All Blacks go head-to-head in a Rugby Championship match in Dunedin on Saturday.
The inclusion of Louw ahead of Marcell Coetzee is one of two changes to the Bok starting XV, with the other being Flip van der Merwe replacing the suspended Eben Etzebeth at lock.
The Bok mentor, Meyer, made no secret of the importance of Louw's inclusion, given that he has replaced one of the team's best players.
"Marcel is playing great rugby," Meyer said, when asked why Coetzee was axed, adding: "Most of the games this year he has been the guy with the highest workrate.
"However, New Zealanders is probably the best team contesting at the breakdown. It is not only Richie McCaw … they have a few other guys that are really good at contesting the breakdown as well.
"We decided to go with Flow [Francois Louw] because he is a specialist openside flank. Duane [Vermeulen] is also a guy that is quite good on the floor. We want to be well-balanced there, because they are really good at the breakdown."
Meyer said Coetzee will get playing time in Dunedin, but Louw is the man charged with taking on the Kiwis in the battle of the breakdown.
"I have been really impressed with him," Meyer said of Louw, who joined the team for the Australasian leg of the competition – after having moved to Bath in England and missing out on the June Tests against England, as well as the two encounters with Argentina.
"I thought he played well against Australia … the 20 minutes when he came on.
"[He brings] a little more experience – it is the ultimate challenge playing New Zealand in New Zealand and that extra bit of experience definitely helps.
"Marcell has been very good this season and has played a lot of rugby, but in this match we feel he [Louw] will be more useful as an impact option."
Louw admitted he thought his international career was on hold after moving to Bath.
However, a rash of injuries opened the door for his return and it resulted in a surprise call-up to make the tour to Australia and New Zealand.
"Obviously I was hoping to play for the Boks again and just happy to be called up to join the guys over here," he said.
Louw said he is "excited" about the prospect of taking on the Kiwis in their own back yard and is fully aware of the challenge he will face from New Zealand skipper Richie McCaw.
McCaw is regarded as one of the greatest openside flanks in the game.
“It will be a huge battle at the breakdown and during the whole game,” Louw told reporters in Auckland on Wednesday.
"McCaw is a good player on the ground.
"You will have to put in a big work-rate to keep up.
"But we have trained well this week and I'm looking forward to the game."
The All Black team will only be named on Thursday but Louw is aware the problems that a potential back row of McCaw, Liam Messam and Kieran Reid will pose.
“Read and Messam are both underrated players at times. They are players that you have to watch. They are good in the loose and have good ball carrying ability. They both have a helluva work-rate but at the end of the day you just have to outwork your opposite number,” he explained.
Louw said he didn't like to pigeon hole himself as an openside flank only, he preferred to regard himself as an all-round loose forward.
"This is the role I have to play this weekend and obviously it is the role I am going to," he said.
"It's always a good challenge [playing McCaw], he's an amazing player, obviously one of the best in the world, ever perhaps. You've got to watch out for him, he's going to give it his all as he has done throughout his career," he said.
Louw will form part of a Springbok back row which will include former Western Province and Stormers teammate Duane Vermeulen at No.8, with Willem Alberts on the other flank.
he is confident that they will be able to match who ever New Zealand will pick in their loose trio.
“It's great to have Duane in there. He has been fighting for that Bok spot for a long time. To finally get it last week was amazing. I'm so happy for him, he is one of my good mates.
"I've got to say that it is quite nice playing with a back row that is about the same weight as your front-row. Willem and Duane are big units. It is nice to have that go-forward ball and that solid wall on defence.
“The guys have a big challenge in front of them this weekend and we are going to have to put in a hard performance if we are going to beat the All Blacks,” he said.
The Springboks have not had a great run this year – two wins against England was followed by a draw in the third Test, then there was a win against Argentina in the opening round of the Rugby Championships, before another slump – drawing with Argentina in Mendoza and losing 19-26 to Australia in Perth last weekend.
The players could be forgiven for being a touch down in the dumps but Louw shrugged off suggestions that the team would be lacking motivation against New Zealand.
“We approach every test as an individual game. We look at the past games and look at our mistakes and look at the positives. Last week wasn't one of our best performances. We had a few opportunities that we didn't execute on and if we can get those things right then there is definitely a chance for us to take the All Blacks.
“We have approached this week as a new game and we need to get a win under the belt,” he explained.