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Rugby | Springboks

Wilco Louw © Gallo Images

Louw’s scrumming is good enough

If the Springbok coaches were to gamble on Wilco Louw to be part of the match day 23 in Saturday’s Castle Lager Rugby clash with the All Blacks in Albany the youngster would most likely stand up well in his primary role.

The Stormers and Western Province youngster has been one of the most destructive local tightheads both domestically and in Super Rugby for a while now, and he flew to New Zealand having been part of a WP scrum that boasts the best statistics in the Currie Cup so far. He’s a difficult man to stop with ball in hand when a few metres away from the line, and were it not for a debatable TMO decision in his most recent appearance against the Cheetahs, he would have been credited with two tries in that game.

The 23-year-old joins the Bok squad with his confidence on a high, and his WP coach John Dobson reckons that when it comes to his most important role as a scrummager, he can certainly do the job.

“Scrumming-wise Wilco is right up there, there is no question about that,” Dobson told the Cape media.

“His challenge in his game is his general movement. That was brilliant for the Stormers earlier in the season, but then he had a knee injury which inhibited him. I just think he is starting to find his movement again now.”

Of course it would be a big call to leapfrog Louw over Trevor Nyakane and Ruan Dreyer, both of whom are experienced props who are already in the squad. They would have trained with the Boks over several weeks, whereas Louw is being introduced to the Boks for the first time.

But while it is highly unlikely the Boks will make that call this week, Louw does have the credentials to use this as a stepping stone to a strong bid to be the Bok No 3 at the World Cup in 2019. As Dobson pointed out, at 23 he is young for a player in his position.

“If he gets his movement right, I have no doubt that he is going to become a top quality international player,” said Coetzee.

“We’re used to tightheads maturing at 28 or 29, and in the case of Wilco you are talking about a 23-year-old.”

The Stormers management had enough faith in Louw’s scrumming to include him in the starting line-up on several occasions during Super Rugby even though Frans Malherbe, the Bok incumbent if he was not injured, was in the match day squad. However, with the Boks developing a more all-encompassing game, Louw will have to work on the mobility issue that Dobson mentioned.

Malherbe gets in a lot of work in general play when he is present, and last weekend in Perth Coenie Oosthuizen, who unfortunately had to return to South Africa afterwards with a broken arm, made more than 15 tackles during his 70 minutes on the field and also features regularly as a ball carrier.

Louw did feature in general play for the Stormers in Super Rugby and Dobson is probably right in pointing to his knee injury as the factor that has inhibited him since then. If that is coming right, Louw could prove a strong addition to the Bok squad and one that could prove a strong contender for a starting place by the time that 2019 and the next World Cup rolls around.


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