Francois Louw: Taking the Top Flight by Storm

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A revelation for his club this season, the big South African openside flanker combines workrate, flair and gritty determination...

There’s a famous quote by the French author Albert Camus which goes "Life is the sum of all your choices." In top level rugby, as in life, it is the choices a player makes that can separate the very good from the brilliant. As a purely instinctive internationally capped openside flanker Francois Louw knows all there is to know about the gravity of good decision making, particularly at that minefield of modern rugby warfare, otherwise known as the breakdown. Louw seems to have an uncanny ability to choose the correct time to clear-out, to attempt to rip ball, to slow down play and crucially when to stay out and provide a potent option in either defence or attack. 

It is this consistently accurate decision making, alongside a thirst for ferocious tackling, an unyielding work rate at the rucks and mauls and a supernatural ability to generate ‘go-forward’ from nothing that marks the South African out for true greatness. This blistering combination has seen the PUMA star take the English top flight by storm, scoring tries, claiming man-of-the-match scalps and captaining his side from the front foot at all times. It has also seen him pick up 10 full caps for his country as well as a host of provincial caps and age grade honours too. 

Joining after the World Cup, the man from Cape Town has turned into a genuine marquee signing for his club side. Yet his playing style is somewhat unorthodox. Particularly in the collision areas. Going against the traditional ‘stay-low –and-hit-them-hard’ coaching mantra, Louw has an upright, almost wrestlers style of tackling and when ball carrying he again holds himself a lot higher than most of his contemporaries, bracing his legs for impact and twisting his torso to wriggle loose. His upper body strength and the power he generates through his lower back is awesome. It is also highly effective. Gifting him the rare ability to create magic from nothing. Flung a hospital ball in a standstill position, he will fight, jink and power himself forward. Gaining yards when, in reality, he has no right to do so. Louw manages, at times, to achieve that highly regarded and elusive rugby skill of only going to deck on his own terms. 

Standing at six foot four and nearly eighteen stone he is a complete openside, a coaches dream. Combative, merciless in contact, a fearsome ball ripper and an underrated try scoring threat too. However, it is the combination of these skills alongside his rugby brain that makes Francois Louw so effective and, for his coaches, makes putting his name first on the team sheet an easy decision.