An “awesome spectacle” awaits fans in 2021 when the British & Irish Lions head to South Africa for their quadrennial tour, and former Springbok flank Francois Louw reckons the tourists will have a point to prove against the men in green and gold.
With the vastly experienced Warren Gatland leading the Lions’ charge to the Republic next year, the tourists will no doubt be a dangerous prospect as they aim to repeat the famous series victories of 1997 and 1974.
Gatland is no stranger to Louw, who played Wales seven times in his Springbok career, each time with the experienced New Zealand coach at the helm for the Red Dragons.
After Wales beat the Boks for the first time in 1999, it took them another 15 years for their second victory over South Africa, in 2014.
Since then and including that match, where Jean de Villiers seriously hurt his knee in Cardiff, Wales’ record against the Boks is four wins from six matches (played in Cardiff, Washington DC, London and Tokyo). Their only two defeats came at the Rugby World Cups of 2015 (quarter-final) and 2019 (semi-final).
Louw played a pivotal role in the RWC playoff last year, forcing a breakdown penalty that eventually led to Handré Pollard kicking the match-winning three-pointer in a very tight match. And he believes next year’s British & Irish Lions tour will again be a close contest.
“I think we can expect an exciting campaign next year and the Lions will want to prove a point,” said Louw, who recently retired from rugby, in an interview with the SA Rugby Podcast.
“I also think Warren Gatland will want to prove a point against South Africa – we’re the reigning world champs, and that will probably add some pressure to justify that title.
“The Lions will bring a lot of history and heritage. Unfortunately, I missed out on playing against them in 2009 for Western Province – something I wished to have done, but it’s the way things panned out for me.”
Louw thinks the British & Irish Lions will travel to South Africa with a point to prove and will aim to whitewash the Springboks in the three Test series, but having been involved with the Bok squad last year and knowing the players, he doesn’t think that will happen.
“It’s an exciting prospect for any British or Irish player – to represent your country is a pinnacle. But with the Lions an extra little step is added – you’re regarded as the best,” said Louw, who played club rugby in England with Bath for the last decade.
“It’s one thing to be good enough to play for your country, but now you’re deemed to be good enough to play for a team made up of players from four countries.
“It’s a level up and a big motivation for the guys over here – they all want to play for the Lions and hope to be selected to play in a Test in the red jersey – and I’m sure they will be relishing the opportunity to play in South Africa.
“Obviously, a big bulk of the team is usually made up of English players and with us having beaten them in the World Cup final last year, I think they will have a point to prove. Those players become a different team when they wear the Lions shirt.
“They are a good outfit and have always been, but it’s a tough tour with some midweek games thrown in so they will probably go to South Africa with almost two full squads.
“To have the next tour in South Africa is exciting for the fans too. They are looking forward to going to South Africa and I think it has the potential to be an awesome spectacle.”
The first eight podcasts – also available on Soundcloud, Spotify and Apple Podcasts – feature Rassie Erasmus; Branco du Preez, Aled Walters and Jacques Nienaber; Cheslin Kolbe and Handre Pollard; Bongi Mbonambi, Malcolm Marx and Schalk Brits; Joel Stransky; Jurie Roux; Mark Andrews; and Francois Pienaar, and can be accessed here.