The 35-year-old looseforward, who made his Test debut in 2010 and went on to play in three Rugby World Cup tournaments, donned the green and gold for a final time in Japan last year, and in the latest episode of the SA Rugby Podcast, he reflects on the highs and lows of a career that culminated in lifting the Webb Ellis Cup in 2019.
“To really line up and compare the three tournaments and look at the differences, is quite difficult,” said Louw, who played in 76 Tests for South Africa.
“In 2010, we had two teams in the Vodacom Super Rugby final, yet New Zealand ended up winning the 2011 World Cup – how does that work? It goes against what you think the momentum really should have been.
“Looking at last year, what really stood out for me, was the process of alignment that Rassie Erasmus had instilled in us. There was complete and utter belief that we could do this, albeit that we lost the opening Test against NZ.
“The hope and belief, determination and attitude towards preparation was unwavering. That played a massive role in our victory in Japan.”
But Japan also brought back a bad memory for Louw, with the opening game in the 2015 Rugby World Cup a low point in the history of South African rugby when the Boks were shocked by the Brave Blossoms in Birmingham.
Louw scored a try against Japan in 2015 but it was a day he’d rather forget, although he admits it strengthened the Boks’ resolve in the rest of the tournament.
“Bar the opening game against Japan, where we were totally complacent and ended up paying a big price for that, at the end of the day we lost in the semi-final to New Zealand by two points,” said Louw.
“Dan Carter kicked a drop goal and I remember the ball just flying over my fingertips – and that was the game. Had that not happened, we stood a good chance of taking on Australia in the final.
“But that is the way rugby sometimes goes, the margins are really tight, and you could argue that you have to take opportunities when they present themselves. Perhaps we didn’t do that in prior years, but we certainly did do that in 2019.”
The first eight podcasts, which 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, can be accessed here.