He’s been in the system for a few years now and had the opportunity to learn and grow, but now is Marius Louw’s chance to shine, given the game time he’s been able to bank.
“I’m filling big shoes with Andre Esterhuizen away,” he admits, “but I’ve learned a lot from him and I’m enjoying my game time at the moment. I’m just hoping to improve and get better as the season goes on.”
The tempo of the game plan under coach Sean Everitt is one ideally suited to someone like Louw who plays with a lot of energy, always looking to get stuck in and be in the centre of the action.
“Our game plan on attack allows us to work and gives us freedom to look for space and that allows me to get into as many mini battles as I can. The same on defence, it’s about work rate which ties into our game plan as well and that’s something I try to deliver on as well.”
As a player who came to Durban in the position of flank, he feels that his experience on the side of the scrum is an advantage for a centre.
“Both positions do roam around on the field a bit but it’s about adapting skills, the footwork and kicking,” he explains. “The physicality as a forward helps in the backline and playing flank and being versatile has helped my rugby.”
The is competition for places in the team, something which is healthy in the sport. It pushes players to be their best, to never rest on their laurels and to fight for every opportunity. Louw and Jeremy Ward have been at the forefront of the fight for the number 12 jersey, but with the injury to Lukhanyo Am, the pair find themselves as the centre pairing.
“It’s a real battle every week,” he explains of competition for places. “While there is a lot of competitiveness, it’s good competitiveness amongst us all and that makes a team grow. The guy next to you pushes you to be your best and everyone in the whole squad pushes each other hard to improve as individuals.”
Another partnership he is thriving at is with flyhalf Curwin Bosch, the pair playing an important role together.
“I’ve known Curwin for a long time, I remember his first cap for the Cell C Sharks like it was yesterday, but now he’s one of the most capped players in our team. It’s great to have a guy who is young, hungry and experienced in your team and I’ve learned a lot from him. We communicate well and hopefully that partnership continues.”
But outside of himself and his team, the Vodacom Bulls beckon. The Pretoria team are top of the Carling Currie Cup log and a victory for the Cell C Sharks in Saturday’s showdown at Jonsson Kings Park would give the Durban team’s title hopes a huge boost.
“They look a lot fresher than they did last year, even the beginning of this year, but they’ve done some good things lately and you have to give credit where credit is due,” he admits.
“But we’re focused on ourselves and what we need to do, we have a plan and it’s up to us to execute. If we do, we’ll get the ‘W’ on the day. For us, it’s about the performance, that’s what we have been working on in training and our preparation has been going very well.
“We’ve had a bit of stop-and-go lately, with a game called off, then we played, then we had the bye, but this is a chance to show that we’re adaptable to anything and we’re up for it.”
The Cell C Sharks boast an enviable record of not losing a game at home in 2020 and Saturday’s game is another opportunity to maintain that run of form.
“For us, it’s our fortress and we set a goal at the start of the year to keep it that way. We don’t want it to be easy for our opponents coming here and we’d like to keep it that way on Saturday.”