Springbok star Francois Louw will stay with Bath Rugby, says head coach Gary Gold
Inspirational Bath Rugby flanker Francois Louw is poised to turn down suitors from South Africa and opt to continue his club career at The Rec.
Bath head coach Gary Gold is confident that Louw, who is midway through a three-year deal, will extend his stay in the West Country.
Louw has been Bath’s stand-out player since making his debut for the club following the 2011 World Cup. Internationally, his stock has risen further still since then, with Louw picking up admirers following his performances for the Boks in the recent Rugby Championship.
Long-term injuries in the Springbok loose forward division have given Louw the opportunity to make the openside flanker berth his own, and the hard-rucking ball poacher has done just that. He is now expected to be a key figure in the Boks’ Autumn Internationals, provided a minor neck injury does not limit his involvement.
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The 27-year-old’s recent form – which has been accomplished despite him making multiple trans-hemisphere flights in order to represent both club and country – will heighten the desire of South African Super Rugby franchises to lure him back to his homeland.
And while Gold expects significant South African competition for Louw’s signature, he strongly believes that the 13-cap Bok will remain by the River Avon.
If that happens, then it will be something of a coup for Bath and Gold, who previously worked with Louw in his capacity as Springbok assistant coach.
“I’m sure there will be pressure for him to go back home but I’m confident we can retain him,” said Gold. “I don’t think retaining Francois is a problem.”
Louw joined Bath for the 2011-12 season from Cape Town-based Western Province/Stormers. And it could be that a pioneering relationship that is in the early stages of being forged between Bath and Western Province could play its part in keeping Louw at The Rec.
Gold is a former Western Province coach and on good terms with current boss Allister Coetzee, who last month guided the side to victory in South Africa's principal domestic competition, the Currie Cup.
The two coaches are exploring ways of exchanging ideas and players. There is also the potential for the two clubs to share commercial insights that will help them bolster their bottom lines.
The first fruit of Gold’s cross-hemisphere relationship was last month’s signing of backrow forward Nick Koster. The 23-year-old is the third loose forward to sign for Bath from the Province in as many years. Former Western Province skipper Luke Watson joined Bath in November 2009 and played just under two seasons at Bath in, with Louw arriving last summer.
“Allister and I are good friends and we would very much like to try and build something of a relationship,” said Gold.
“I have a good relationship with Western Province; I left there on good terms.
“We don’t play against each other so we are not a competitive threat.
“We could share ideas both commercially and from a game point of view.
“They will need a player at some stage and I’m sure we can help them, and vice versa.”
In Western Province, Bath have a superb ally. The Cape Town outfit beat the Sharks in Durban a fortnight ago to win their first Currie Cup in 11 years. Province’s stars include winger Bryan Habana and one of most promising young lock forwards in world rugby, Eben Etzebeth.
Gold, Louw and Koster are not Bath’s only connections to Western Province. Bath forwards coach Neal Hatley also had a spell at the club.
The strength of Gold’s relationship with Louw could be pivotal in keeping the flanker at Bath. Gold’s willingness to release Louw for international matches and their frank relationship means they are on an excellent footing, says Bath scrum-half and former Springbok Michael Claassens.
“As a club, Bath have been very good to him,” said Claassens. “Francois knows Gary quite well from back home and they have a very straight, honest relationship.”