CAPE TOWN – Elrigh Louw is almost the same size as Duane Vermeulen, says the Springbok star is someone he admires, and now he plays in the same team as him.
Could Louw become the next Duane Vermeulen? He certainly has all the elements to do so.
In fact, the new Bulls blindside flank is even taller than his hero – 1.95m to 1.93m. Vermeulen is a bit bulkier at 117kg to Louw’s 112kg but the latter has only just turned 21 and will become even stronger.
Their playing styles are similar too – at least when Vermeulen was making his name in South African rugby as a blindside flank at the Pumas and Cheetahs.
Louw is strikingly mobile for a man his size, and showed that he is not just a piece of meat in the lead-up to Marco van Staden’s first try against the Sharks last weekend.
The former SA Under-20 No 7 drew a defender and offloaded in the tackle to hooker Joe van Zyl, and remained engaged with the play as he followed up and called for the inside pass from Ivan van Zyl, who broke from the next ruck – shouting “Ivan!”.
Louw did not let the excitement of hitting the gap affect him either as he made the scoring pass to Van Staden while under pressure from Sanele Nohamba.
The youngster from Hoërskool Transvalia in Vanderbijlpark played his part in another try soon after half-time as he claimed a clean line-out ball, with Van Staden latching on to the maul to dot down.
To be picked so soon in the Bulls starting line-up since leaving the Southern Kings in late August speaks volumes of his ability – coach Jake White is a hard taskmaster to please – and is a far cry from the struggles in Port Elizabeth, with the Kings having been dissolved due to financial and administrative problems.
“It was a big move and a big decision to come here, but I definitely made the right decision for my career. Things have moved quickly – within two days, I was out of PE and packed all my stuff to Pretoria. Being back in Gauteng is one of the main reasons for the move, to be closer to home,” Louw said ahead of Saturday’s Super Rugby Unlocked clash with the Stormers in Pretoria (7pm kick-off).
“But I have fitted in so easily here at the Bulls. All the coaches, players and seniors have worked so well together that it feels as if I’ve been here for years.”
His skill-set dovetailed sweetly with Vermeulen and Van Staden in his first start against the Sharks, but it’s all still so surreal for Louw.
“I try to be like a sponge and take in everything that I can at this stage, because to play with guys like Duane and Marco is a privilege that few people have. I try to learn as much as I can in the time I’m with them,” he said.
“We connected well with each other – stealing balls, being a nuisance on the ground, being physical on defence. I think we complemented each other well over the past weekend, so we can just build forward from there.”