By DUNCAN JOHNSTONE - The Dominion Post
Francois Louw is honoured at the prospect of being the latest Springboks flanker asked to tame Richie McCaw, and his skipper, John Smit, believes he is up to the task.
McCaw has faced six different starting opponents in his 15 tangles with South Africa.
Louw, the barnstorming 25-year-old Stormers openside flanker, looks set to join the list when the Tri-Nations tournament opens at Eden Park in Auckland on Saturday, asked to fill the boots of the injured Heinrich Brussow, who did such a fine job in the Springboks' whitewash of the All Blacks last season.
"It's been an interesting dynamic for us having lost Brussow early in the Super 14. You scratch your head thinking who on earth is going to replace the sort of work that he did last year. Then all of a sudden a guy like Francois steps up," Smit enthused of the newest member of his forward pack who was a standout in the early season tussles with Wales, France and Italy.
"He has played four tests and he has got three man-of-the-match awards. It just goes to show how the culture of the team helps someone, who has got the potential to play well, fit in straight away."
Louw readily acknowledged that the stakes go up for him in New Zealand.
"It's something that every South African rugby player aspires to – playing for your country and facing the All Blacks."
Louw was quick to deliver his appraisal of McCaw.
"He is one of the greats of rugby who has proven himself over the years. He was playing test rugby while I was still at school. Now to play against him, having always looked up to him, it's a great honour, especially here in New Zealand."
Louw has tangled with McCaw twice over the past two years of Super 14, something he described as "great experiences".
They had chatted after their first encounter but McCaw didn't give any secrets away.
At 1.90m and 110kg Louw has a slight physical edge over McCaw (1.87m, 105kg). Now it has come down to abilities, although he sensed the new law interpretations were bringing the larger loose forwards into the game more.
Add in the likes of Pierre Spies, Schalk Burger and Dewald Potgieter and the Springboks clearly have a massive physical element to their play at the breakdowns.
"I think the bigger forwards are carrying the ball more rather than just playing a defensive and tackling game.
"The object was to get the game flowing more with a running style of rugby and I think the laws have been effective. The attacking team has the advantage."
Louw was coy as to whether the All Blacks had been advantaged by the shift in interpretations but he was adamant New Zealand wouldn't lack for motivation.
"Obviously they want to prove themselves. The Boks had a hell of a run last year and the All Blacks will be out there to prove a point this time around.
"It's all sort of a pre-season for the World Cup and the guys want to lay a foundation now and prove what they are worth."
None more so than Louw himself who knows good performances against McCaw will help his chances of returning to New Zealand next year for the defence of the World Cup.
Meanwhile, the Springboks have delayed the naming of their test team until tomorrow as they monitor the leg injuries to locks Bakkies Botha and Danie Rossouw.