Springboks barometer: Wilco Louw among new No 3s to compete with Frans Malherbe

Tighthead prop Wilco Louw during the national anthems in 2019.

Tighthead prop Wilco Louw should be back in the Springboks mix in 2024. Picture: Marco Longari / AFP

Published Feb 15, 2024


South Africa’s four franchises will return to action in the United Rugby Championship this weekend, and the next few months will be vital for players looking to impress the Springboks’ coaches in the lead-up to the international season.

Double Tests against Ireland and New Zealand await, while an experimental side could feature in the one-off Test against Portugal and a possible friendly match with Wales – which makes it two good Tests for some fresh blood.

IOL Sport takes a look at the players who have been impressive so far and looking to secure their place in the Bok squad for this year’s Tests.

Today we feature tighthead prop, a position the Springboks should look to freshen up over the next few seasons with some new players ...

The Incumbent:

He hasn’t been on the field since the 2023 World Cup final, but just like Lood de Jager in his position, the Stormers tighthead is unmistakably the top No 3 in the country still.

Malherbe will have half a season to get himself back into the swing of things on the pitch when he returns for the Stormers.

Despite not playing, he has been training in Cape Town and should be ready for a return to the international arena.

The rest of the season should provide him with ample time to show coach Rassie Erasmus that he is still the future of Bok rugby for the next couple of seasons.

The Contenders: Trevor Nyakane, Vincent Koch,

World Cup winners Nyakane and Koch should definitely crack the nod for this year’s Tests, especially because all the experience will be needed to break the Irish in the scrums in July, and later in the year when the All Blacks visit for two Tests in the Rugby Championship.

But Nyakane, 34, and Koch, 33, are two of the elder statesmen at the Boks, and it has maybe become time for the Bok coaching team to look at some fresh blood that could make the step up over the next couple of seasons and who could take over from Nyakane and Koch, with the focus on the 2027 World Cup in Australia.

Louw is back in the country and has strengthened the Bulls’ scrum since returning from England, and he is making a strong case for a recall to the Springbok fold.

An injury has hampered his return season slightly, but he will be fit and firing soon to resume his URC duties.

Louw has been anchoring the Bulls’ scrum for the first part of the season well, and they’ve missed his presence in recent matches.

Young Lions prop Ntlabakanye is also making a name for himself.

He’s been scrummaging excellently, and his ball-carrying abilities and defensive work, despite his size, make him one of the standout players for the Lions this season.

He is only 24, and there is definitely still a lot for him to learn, but being able to do so under the watch of Malherbe, Nyakane and Koch can only be beneficial to his future.