crum plough Wilco Louw’s return to South Africa has given horns to a raging Vodacom Bulls set piece and life to his hopes of harvesting a Springboks recall.
Louw was again a driving force for the Vodacom Bulls in a thunderous Round 6 clash at Loftus Versfeld where the hosts dismantled Connacht to climb to third place in the 2023-24 BKT United Rugby Championship.
Though the venue remains the same on Saturday, the challenge will be far more personal for Louw as the Vodacom Bulls brace for a blockbuster derby against the Hollywoodbets Sharks.
A product of the DHL Stormers, where he honed his craft alongside the likes of Springboks double World Cup winners Steven Kitshoff and Frans Malherbe, Louw's eight-year rugby journey has brought him to the Vodacom Bulls via a stint in the Gallagher Premiership with Harlequins.
His immense thigh muscles hint at Louw’s prodigious scrumming prowess, a key factor in the Vodacom Bulls' resurgence this season under Director of Rugby Jake White. A prototype for stability in the set piece, Louw has become indispensable for The Herd in the Vodacom URC, where the set piece doubles as a battleground for ascendancy in all other facets.
In one standout performance, Louw led from the front against Cardiff in Round 4. Playing the full 80 minutes, the tighthead prop spearheaded the Vodacom Bulls' defensive effort, earning the Man of the Match award and showcasing his commitment to the cause.
Louw's return to the Republic signifies a broader trend – a groundswell of overseas-based South African talent opting to compete in the BKT URC, which is the most encouraging sign for South African rugby.
The shift in quality of performance from the Vodacom Bulls' pack, particularly the scrum, bears testament to the value that Louw adds.
“The longer the season carries on the more we as a pack learn about each other and get comfortable with the guy alongside you, and you know exactly what to do in certain situations,” Louw said.
“The more games we play the tighter we get as a group, and we have great coaches. And guys like Gerhard Steenekamp, who made his international debut [in 2022], have impressed and every guy adds something different. There’s not a single guy who isn’t a hard worker and every bit of input helps.
“I can’t say exactly what makes the perfect scrum, but together hopefully it’s a good year for us.”
Louw made his Springbok debut in 2017, earning the last of his 14 caps in 2021, and his focus on the Vodacom Bulls is part of a bigger goal to pack down for the reigning world champions again.
“It’s every professional rugby player’s dream to play for his country, but first I have to play good rugby for the Vodacom Bulls every weekend,” he said.
“If it happens it'll be unbelievable. South Africa is our home, and that dream will always be there.”