Rugby | Flo: I have grown overseas

Cape Town – Francois Louw understands Allister Coetzee’s decision to back locally-based players over overseas-based players, but he still believes that the experience he has gained playing for Bath will benefit the Springboks.

Coetzee has named just three overseas-based players – Louw, Duane Vermeulen (Toulon) and Steven Kitshoff (Bordeaux) – in his 31-man squad for the upcoming three-match Test series against Ireland. 

Those players arrived in Cape Town on Sunday, a week after the rest of the squad had assembled in Stellenbosch for their first training camp together. 

There has been no formal instruction from SA Rugby preventing Coetzee from picking overseas-based players, but that could be the direction things are moving in after SA Rugby president Oregan Hoskins confirmed back at Coetzee’s unveiling in April that the existing policies would be re-evaluated.

Louw, who was a key figure in the Boks’ 2015 World Cup campaign, said he had given the issue some thought.

“It is tough … playing for the Springboks is the ultimate. I’m very grateful and fortunate and honoured to be back here again … I don’t think it’s ever a given, it definitely hasn’t been for me,” the 30-year-old tol media from the Bok hotel in Cape Town.

“I obviously play my rugby overseas and I’ll have a view on that.

“I definitely believe it’s brought the best out of me as a player. I think I’ve grown substantially, not just on the field but off the field as well.

“Those skills and attributes, I definitely bring back into the side (Boks).

“I can understand the reasoning behind wanting to select domestically-based players as well.

“It’s out of my hands at the moment. I’m playing my rugby over there and if I do get the chance to play for the Boks I’ll obviously give it everything I have.”

Louw acknowledged that, following the 2015 World Cup, he was not certain that he still had an international future. 

“Ja, of course. You never take this for granted,” he said.

“It’s very special to be included and you never know what’s going to happen in the future.

“With rugby, you can only look so far ahead. You can sign whatever contract you want but your career can end pretty quickly. The one thing you can control is the effort you put in.”

But a conversation with Coetzee last month put things back on track.

“The coach spoke to me a few weeks ago … asking what my future was and if I still saw myself wanting to be available for Springbok selection,” said Louw.

“It was a very easy answer and I’m very grateful to be included once again. It’s a tough task at hand and I think we all know that.”

Coetzee said he did not want any of his three overseas-based players to worry about policy. 

“The focus for the overseas-based players now is really to focus on what’s coming on Saturday,” he said.

“We are busy at SA Rugby to formulate policy and when we’re ready that will be communicated timeously to the players and the media. But that is not the focus at the moment.”

The first Test will take place at Newlands on June 11.

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