Jake White: New Bulls No 8 Elrigh Louw wants to be like Duane Vermeulen
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CAPE TOWN – Can Elrigh Louw become the next Duane Vermeulen for the Bulls and Springboks at No 8?
Louw has established himself as a top-class blindside flank at the Bulls, but he is inspired by Vermeulen to become a No 8 going forward.
That was the main reason coach Jake White offered when asked to explain Louw’s selection at the back of the scrum for Sunday’s Currie Cup clash against the Lions at Loftus Versfeld (3.15pm kickoff).
The 21-year-old has operated at No 8 for most of his career, but has been a revelation at No 7 on White’s watch since moving to Pretoria last year.
His connection with Vermeulen began during a training session when he did a “shoulder check” on his captain – something the Springbok star described as Louw “running straight through me”.
Louw said at the time that it was “either him or me” in explaining his actions, and Vermeulen added that White had told him Louw felt that he was scared of the youngster. So, Vermeulen got his revenge by tackling Louw “full-out, as hard as I can”.
It seems as if Louw earned Vermeulen’s respect, as the latter told the new kid on the block “I like your style”.
In later months, Louw explained that he wants to be a combination of Vermeulen, Schalk Burger and Richie McCaw all rolled into one.
Now he can begin that journey against the Lions on Sunday. “I think he wants to play number eight. I think he wants to be like Duane – him and Duane have spent a lot of time together, so I think he has an inkling of wanting to go and play number eight. That’s always nice, when you have a player who wants to play there,” White said on Friday.
“Then I’ve Jacques du Plessis coming back soon, and he play blindside as well. The way I look at it, I might as well give Elrigh some game time at eight, because when Jacques does make himself available – after his rehab process – then he’ll slot into the seven role as well.
“Then at least I’ve got six and eight covered when he does come back. But that doesn’t take away from the fact that Muller (Uys) can double up there, WJ (Steenkamp) played well for us at number eight, and we’ve got Arno Botha also in the wings.”
On Vermeulen’s injury rehabilitation, White was positive, and expected the 35-year-old to go straight back to the Boks once fit.
“It’s coming along well and it’s great that he is using the Bulls medical staff and conditioning staff to get himself on to par, as it shows confidence in our staff as well.
“I’m actually not sure whether he will join us first. As soon as he’s ready to go, the next plan of action will be for the Boks to decide whether he needs time with us, or whether he can slot straight away into the national set-up.
“At this point in time, I’m not hedging my bets that I will be able to use him. The Lions series goes straight into the Rugby Championship, and almost straight into the end-of-year tour. I haven’t calculated that I am going to get him back for any time.”
15 David Kriel 14 Cornal Hendricks 13 Lionel Mapoe 12 Harold Vorster 11 Richard Kriel 10 Johan Goosen 9 Zak Burger 8 Elrigh Louw 7 Muller Uys 6 Marcell Coetzee (captain) 5 Ruan Nortje 4 Walt Steenkamp 3 Jacques van Rooyen 2 Johan Grobbelaar 1 Simphiwe Matanzima.
Bench: 16 Schalk Erasmus 17 Gerhard Steenekamp 18 Mornay Smith 19 Janko Swanepoel 20 Nizaam Carr 21 Keagan Johannes 22 Chris Smith 23 Sibongile Novuka.