Cape Town - This year’s Springbok Rugby World Cup group has the most depth of any group in the last decade, and that sets them up for a positive tournament, veteran loose forward Francois Louw believes.
According to the supersport.com website, Louw will be heading to his third World Cup and believes the one assembled by Rassie Erasmus is the strongest of the three he has played in, and consists of more depth than any other team he has seen.
Louw still has butterflies in his stomach and admits he is as excited as he was when he first heard he was heading to New Zealand in 2011 for his first World Cup.
“This is definitely the squad with the most depth that I’ve been part of in the last 10 years. There really is multiple guys who can slot into various combinations to produce a good brand of rugby and the championship showed that. We had two, maybe three sets of starting combinations that produced results. I know the guys are aware of that and that helps competition. There is a lot of excitement, especially coming off what we have achieved in the last few months,” Louw believes.
“But the reality is that we look at it in perspective and know that it could have been the bounce of a ball in any one of those championship games could have gone the other way. We might not have been sitting where we were lifting the Championship trophy. I think there is a lot of confidence but in the same sense a lot of ability in the side, recognising how the fixtures play out, how they were won, the good and bad things and really what needs to be done to win it at this level.
“It’s fantastic. I think the feeling of excitement is as much as it was the first time and to get the opportunity to go for a third time is amazing. I’m really excited about it and I’m really looking forward to it.”
Louw does have some sage advice for his peers, especially when things get tough in the middle of the tournament.
“I think first of all, we are getting better. We were knocked out in the quarters the first time, the semis the second time and hopefully this time we will go all the way. I think the biggest lesson is quite a cliché. All you really can do is focus on those things you can control. There are a lot of external factors, there are a lot of things that can affect the outcome of the fixture, whether that is the pressure of the moment, being away from home for so long, if certain things in the game aren’t going your way - those are the things that are out of your control and where you need to stay cool, calm and collected and in the moment.
“So if I had to pass something on it would probably be that. To focus on ourselves, to prepare for every fixture that comes our way and to not to miss out on any opportunity. Because just as easy as things can go against you, an opportunity can present itself to you during the game to take the win away with you. You don’t want to be left wanting if that opportunity comes.”
He recognises that the pressure is amped up in the tournament, more than many players will be used to from Test rugby, but he says the mindset changes as well and the Boks are well positioned for knockout rugby.
“Absolutely, you are in a pool and have to finish in the top two to go through and then it is knockout rugby. It doesn’t matter who you play in the quarters, semis or final, each game is really tough. There is a different mindset when you play knockout rugby and you get into that mode, you aren’t looking for elaborate wins or exciting rugby but you want to get the win and get to the next stage and move through the rest of the tournament.
“There are only three games then that you need to play to win the tournament so there is immensely more pressure than in a Test match.”
And with a loose trio competition that is set to be tough for Erasmus to pick the best three on the field and one on the bench, Louw says the fact that there is a common goal supersedes everything else in terms of the normal competition in teams.
“There is competition. Everyone wants to start and play all the time. Everyone realises the importance of the position we are in and ultimately there is a goal and that is to win the World Cup. We all are working towards that. We have a good group of guys that buy into that goal and a good bunch of players. If we put together any combination of those guys we should get a decent outcome in the fixture.
“Rassie will decide what his combination is, but more importantly we all buy into what he is trying to achieve.”
Louw will want to be third time lucky with the Boks, but knows it takes hard work and a lot of luck during a tournament to get to the end. But the signs in the side right now are encouraging.