Flo: Springbok homecoming 'blew my mind'

Francois Louw (Gallo)
Francois Louw (Gallo)

Cape Town - Francois Louw couldn't have written the script to his Test career any better, retiring from international rugby just days after the Springboks lifted the Webb Ellis Cup in Japan last year. 

The 34-year-old, who played his 76th Test match in coming off the bench against England in that November 2 Yokohama final to help close out the game for the Boks, says it still hasn't quite sunk in.

One of the older players in the Bok class of 2019, Louw vividly remembers watching Francois Pienaar's Springboks of 1995 knocking over the All Blacks in extra time after a Joel Stransky drop goal. 

While he was only nine-years-old at the time, Louw understood that something special had happened and overs 24 years later, it would be him celebrating. 

"The magnitude of those two wins (1995 and 2007) stuck with me," Louw told Sport24 this week at the 2020 Laureus World Sports Awards in Berlin. 

"I always remember that image at the final whistle with Francois Pienaar going down and the players jumping around, and then similar scenes in 2007.

"In 2019, I was there on the field for the final whistle and you actually take a moment realise that you're living one of these moments in history. It's awesome."

Louw was part of the five-day trophy tour that followed after the Springboks returned home, but he did not have long to celebrate with his English club Bath requiring his services almost immediately. 

Louw says that, four-and-half months after the fact, winning the World Cup still seems surreal.

"I don't think it really sinks in, at least not yet," he said.

"It comes and goes in waves when you realise how intense the last six months really were."

While the Springboks knew that what they had achieved in Japan was significant, Louw says the greeting that awaited them when they returned home in the form of the national bus tour was a life-changing experience. 

"We knew it was a big vibe and after the final we saw scenes here and there of what was happening at home, but absolutely nothing could have prepared us for that moment arriving in South Africa and seeing our people," he said.

"It literally blew my mind.

"The trips were planned for two or three hours a day and we went for at least six hours non-stop, charging through fans in the streets and the communities.

"They were long days, but you don't even think about it.

"These are the people that backed us as a side and the people we believe we give hope to.

"They make this game so special and they are the ones that make the game what it is. To be a part of that was fantastic."

The Boks, meanwhile, were named Team of the Year the 2020 Laureus World Sports Awards.  

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