DURBAN (Reuters) – Loose-forward Francois Louw and assistant coach Matt Proudfoot believe the trio at the back of South Africa’s scrum will have a big role to play in their Rugby Championship season as the Springboks prepare for their tournament opener against Argentina at King’s Park in Durban on Saturday.
Bok coach Rassie Erasmus has already suggested he will make changes in that area, with a shift from openside to blindside flank for captain Siya Kolisi and the possibility of Louw in the number eight jersey, a role he excelled in against New Zealand in Cape Town last year.
That could mean a debut for Marco van Staden, who Erasmus admitted would have played in June’s 2-1 home series win over England were it not for injury.
Whatever the combination, Louw believes he can be a good foil for Kolisi.
“Having played with Siya before, he is immensely physical,” Louw told reporters on Tuesday. “We play quite a different sort of game. I think he’s a bit more of a ball-carrier, he’s really quick and can take those half gaps alongside the backs, and is a big presence on defence.
“Our games complement each other, but I’m more breakdown focused and probably play a bit tighter. In that way we can feed off each other.”
The return of former captain versatile loose-forward Warren Whiteley from injury is another big boost for the Boks, according to Louw.
“Warren is a fantastic player, and offers a great lineout option. I guess you could say he’s a back trapped in a forward’s body. He links between the forwards and backs really well, he’s good in the outside channels and gets all over the park.
“Warren has an immense work rate, and pitches up every time to give an 80-minute performance.”
Bok forwards coach Proudfoot said the back of the scrum was a key area for the side in the build-up to the World Cup next year, with number eight Duane Vermeulen, who will play for his club in Japan during the Rugby Championship, also in the mix.
“It is probably the most important aspect for us to get right from a pack perspective. To have that physicality but also the ability to play somebody wide,” he said.
“The roles of the loose-forwards these days has increased, they have to run like backs and play with width on attack.
“It has been something we have thought long and hard about and it will be up to the tight forwards to create that platform to inject our loose-forwards into the game. When South Africa play well, that is the typical style of our rugby.”
(Reporting by Nick Said; editing by Clare Fallon)