Springbok World Cup winner Francois Louw has announced his retirement from all rugby after completion of the current English Premiership season with Bath.
The club, for whom he has given almost a decade of yeoman service, were scheduled to reveal later on Friday that his contractual obligations will end soon: the 2019/20 campaign finishes with the final on June 20, although currently sixth-placed Bath play their last ordinary-season fixture away to Saracens on June 6.
Versatile loose forward Louw, who turns 35 in mid-June, told Sport24 from England that he would be “taking a bit of a sabbatical” following an illustrious career that began for Western Province in 2006.
The grandson of another Springbok player and golden-era WP president Jan Pickard, Bishops-educated Louw also represented the Stormers at Super Rugby level (2008-11) and played 76 times for South Africa (2010 to 2019).
He had already, in early November last year, revealed that he was stepping down from the Test arena, following the Boks’ triumph at the Japanese-staged World Cup; Louw had been a key member of their now-famous “Bomb Squad” of impact players (generally as open-side back-up to captain Siya Kolisi) off the bench in major fixtures there.
“For now, my family and I will be staying in the UK,” the father of a five-year-old daughter and two-year-old son said.
“There are possibly some good opportunities post-career … I am going to pursue the financial services route, more specifically focused around athletes and especially rugby players.
“The aim would be to assist in maximising their financial-security potential in what are relatively short professional careers … sportspeople need to retire comfortably.
“But no ways would I (preclude) coming back to South Africa one day; I love the place immensely and miss it and my close friends and family there.”
Louw said Bath had been a “phenomenal” period in his life.
“The setting is very unique: an old, historic city with a rugby stadium (the Recreation Ground) smack-bang in the middle of it, next to the river. There’s definitely an aura about it … while a small city, it has the university to enhance the vibe and there’s certainly no small-town syndrome about the place.”
He described as being “very blessed” by playing to almost 35: “I know that guys like Schalk Brits and Victor Matfield really pushed the bar age-wise, but my body is beginning to scream out at me that it’s time (to quit).
“The game is so physical now … even training weeks become increasingly hard and tough.”
Louw said the satisfaction of having achieved the “highest feat possible” (hoisting the Webb Ellis Cup with the Boks) made him “especially content to make this decision now”.
“That tops it all for me, especially as it came at the third attempt, after being privileged to be part of 2011 and 2015 cracks as well … in 2015 it was touch and go; we were just pipped by the All Blacks in the semi and, dare I say it, we would probably have had Australia’s number in the final then.”
Asked about his “Bomb Squad” involvement at RWC 2019, Louw said: “Look, you always want to start matches … we’re all alpha males.
“But this is very much a team sport; it’s not about the individual. Coach Rassie (Erasmus) made it very clear last year he wanted total squad alignment, buy-in to our processes in order to be in the best possible position to win the Webb Ellis Cup.
“There was a nice, special little buzz around the Bomb Squad … I like to think we made a genuine difference toward the end of important matches.”
*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing