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Springbok prop backs 'destructive' Joe Marler for Lions tour to South Africa

By Chris Jones
Harlequins prop Joe Marler. (Photo by Henry Browne/Getty Images)

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Springbok Wilco Louw is backing Harlequins teammate Joe Marler to win selection for the British and Irish Lions tour to South Africa, despite the England prop opting out of the Six Nations championship. Marler helped his pregnant wife look after their three children while his England teammates went through two months in a “bubble” to ensure they were able to take part in the championship despite the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Warren Gatland, the Lions head coach, took Marler on the 2017 tour to New Zealand and knows the player’s scrum power and unique personality could be important in staving off the boredom of having to operate in “bubbles” in Johannesburg and Cape Town where they will play eight matches, including three tests against the World Cup winning Springboks.

Gatland will name his 36-man squad in less than three weeks and Marler is the form loosehead in England.

Tighthead prop Louw, who has won 13 Springbok caps, has seen first hand the destructive power of Marler’s scrum work and tackling this season as Quins have secured a top four place in the Gallagher Premiership.

“The way Joe has been playing and performing this season he will definitely be in the mix for the Lions,” Louw told RugbyPass.

“Joe is one of the best looseheads in the business and also one of the most destructive tacklers and he makes some big hits.

“It is great being around him on the pitch, and off it he is a joker and I have learnt so much from him. Joe is an incredible human being and I enjoy working with him and one of the big things I was most excited about coming here was to play with him.

“Joe has helped me so much and back in South Africa in Super Rugby you play against the same opponents each year and you know their tricks. I don’t know the tricks of the trade of the guys over here and so Joe and Scott (Baldwin, hooker) have been a massive help.

“Joe and Scott are really great in the scrums and they are awesome guys and Matt Symons is a really good scrummager behind me. In the Premiership the scrum can be a massive weapon.”

Louw, who weighs nearly 20st, has phenomenally strong legs which help his scrum power and the bad news for opponents is that he will become an even greater physical threat thanks to the strength and conditioning programme Quins have given their tighthead prop, who is also learning from Adam Jones, the club’s vastly experience scrum coach.

Louw would love to break into the Springbok squad for the Lions tour and is up against South African based tightheads including Frans Malherbe and Trevor Nyakane as well as Saracens’ Vincent Koch.

He added: “The Boks have really good props to choose from and we saw that in the World Cup and I am hoping we can do well in the series with the Lions.

“A lot of my strength is natural and both my grandfathers were big men but coming over here the boys gym differently. I am getting stronger and stronger in the gym because of the programme we have at Quins and I like it a lot. I hope to get even stronger but I know you cannot be too heavy.

“The scrums in the Premiership are a little longer and you are up against some of the best props in the world and it does take you time to adapt, particularly when we were not playing for eight months. Not being able to scrum every day during that time meant it took me some time to find my rhythm but with Adam helping me so much I got into the system pretty quickly.”

Louw, 26, arrived at Quins alongside former Springbok U20 teammate Andre Esterhuizen and that has made adjusting to a new country with the added complications of lockdowns easier to deal with.

Louw and his wife have been unable to see their families back in South Africa but he remains upbeat, saying:  “Me and Andre arrived on the same day and the club made it so much easier for us to move.

“From the day I signed my contract the club has been fantastic for me and my wife. Having some other South Africans at the club is also a help as this is the longest I have been away from my family and this is the first time we have been abroad.”

With Quins in the Premiership top four the club is targeting the play-offs with their hi-tempo rugby, and Louw and his fellow frontrow internationals are helping deliver quality ball for their exciting backs to use.

“We can take a lot out of the narrow defeats to Bristol (35-33) and Exeter (21-20) this season and the way we picked ourselves up and have been playing makes me really excited about the end of the season and the chance of making the play-offs.

“Everyone wants to win the Premiership and we have a special group of guys with big leaders like Joe and Danny Care and we all heading in the right direction.”



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