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Rugby | Springboks

Kiwis rate the Flo influence



The All Blacks appear fairly unanimous that the return of the rugged skills of Springbok flanker Francois Louw subsequent to the match in Albany will improve the home team’s chances in Saturday’s return Rugby Championship clash at Newlands.

The Bok team had not been named at the time of writing but Louw, who played well and made a big difference to the South African breakdown play in the draw against the Wallabies in Bloemfontein last week, was expected to be a certainty for selection. Called out from his duties with English club Bath, the experienced Louw has played against the All Blacks several times dating back to 2010 and they respect what he can do.

“He will make a difference to the Boks both as a player and with his leadership. He has real presence as a player and he will bring leadership,” said the man who will be filling the blindside flank position for the All Blacks on Saturday, Liam Squire.

All Black coach Steve Hansen concurred with Squire that Louw would bring attributes that the Boks need and which made a difference to the South African performance last week.

“Flo improves the Bok team. We rate him,” said the coach.

Siya Kolisi, Jean-Luc du Preez and Uzair Cassiem all enjoyed good form in Super Rugby and Kolisi in particular gets a big rap every time a New Zealand player talks about him, but as a unit they might have been a bit callow in the Albany clash. Kolisi wasn’t really a Bok regular before this year while Du Preez and Cassiem were playing against the Kiwis for the first time.

Louw will bring the steadiness and experience lacking last time out, while Kolisi’ excellent form has also been noted by his opponents.

“The Boks have always had good loose-forwards and they bring a lot of physicality to their game. We know we will have to be on top of our game to overcome the challenge,” said Squire.

“Siya has been outstanding this year. He was great in Super Rugby where he also seemed to enjoy his leadership role (with the Stormers) and he has transferred that form onto the international level.”

TALKING UP THE BOKS

Hansen has made a habit in recent years of talking up the Boks before games between the traditional rivals and it has been no different this week. Whether you like Hansen or not depends on whether you understand or appreciate dry humour. If you do, his press conferences are not completely devoid of entertainment, and this week has been no different.

However he was being genuine when he told the team announcement press conference at the Vineyard Hotel on Thursday that he feels the gap between his team and the Boks is not as big as many people make out.

“The gap is not really that great, and I have said it before. Maybe it won’t give you guys or the South African supporters comfort, but we felt we were in a tough game in Albany (where the All Blacks won 57-0). The guys know how hard the Boks came at them and how tough it was. There were a couple of errors that cost the Boks and had they taken their chances it could have been a very different game.

“We know they will be looking to be more accurate this week and we are preparing for the backlash. We won in Albany because of our accuracy and precision and we will be working on doing that again, but we are expecting the Boks to be more accurate and if they are it could be a tough game for us.”

The travel factor has been a big talking point this week but in naming a team that featured just one change from the one that won in Albany, hence meaning the Kiwis’ strongest available team as lock Brodie Retallick isn’t with them because of personal reasons, Hansen opted for the freshness of the five players who flew out to South Africa ahead of the players who faced Argentina last week.

According to centre Ryan Crotty, who was part of the advanced guard and said he was feeling refreshed and hungry to play, it was up to the team to vindicate the decision by winning on Saturday night.

“I can say from my side that the week off was good for me as I am really hungry to play and I feel we’ve been helping energise the other guys who have been travelling since they arrived here. Hopefully we will show it was the right decision by winning on Saturday. Saturday will tell us.”



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