Veteran Springbok flanker Francois Louw is preparing for the third World Cup in his career, having been apart of the 2011 and 2015 campaigns.
For the 34-year-old loose forward now playing for Bath in the Gallagher Premiership, this will likely be his last chance to take home the William Webb Ellis trophy. Despite having all the World Cup experience in the world, the build-up to this one has been like no other.
“The preparation has been remarkably different for me,” Louw told media at a Wednesday press conference.
“I wasn’t initially involved in the build-up to the Rugby World Cup 2011 – I was a late inclusion in that side.
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“I joined the squad about two or three weeks prior to the guys leaving for New Zealand, whereas this time around, it has been a longer process. We’ve had our prep throughout the Championship and training weeks here and there.
“From a personal perspective, I am definitely more prepared, more in sync with what we are trying to achieve. We have put a lot of effort into our preparations for the various stages of the tournament.”
South Africa have had a resurgence under Rassie Erasmus, winning away in New Zealand last year for the first time since 2009 and drawing when they faced off again at the same venue in Wellington this year.
When the Rugby World Cup draw was originally announced, things were very different with South Africa sliding down the world rankings under Allister Coetzee. Now after three intense games, the rivarly between the two nations is back and shapes a much-anticipated pool stage encounter.
“The draw was done a few years ago when our world ranking wasn’t in the best place.
“It’s our biggest rival and it’s an exciting challenge. We’ve had one go against them this year and it’s very different circumstances now at a World Cup.
“We will just take the moment as it comes, do the best we can, and hope to get the result we want.”
One of the battles for Louw will be the loose forward clash against openside flankers Sam Cane and Ardie Savea, who have been both used in the starting line-up to bolster New Zealand’s back row.
“Should they both be on the pitch together we will have our hands full there.
“In terms of competing at every ruck, you make that assessment of which rucks to compete at. Blindly going into every ruck from a stealer or poacher’s perspective is not really the most effective way of playing the game.
“Both those guys will choose their rucks carefully. In terms of combating that, we will have to make sure our cleaners arrive nice and early, the ball carriers must put that extra fight in the tackle – extra movement on the ground or pumping through the point of contact.
“We want to make sure we give our halfbacks clean ball.”
Since Erasmus took over, eight of Louw’s 12 tests for South Africa over that time have been coming off the bench. It is a role that he is expecting to provide at the World Cup, where often the game is won or lost.
“There have been some interesting moments in the last 10 to 15 minutes, whether it’s about closing out the game or fighting to get some points.
“There is definitely a tactic in terms of finishing a game, whether it’s closing out or striking to get that victory. It is something we have grown in.”
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