Inspirational Bath flanker Francois Louw is poised to turn down suitors from South Africa and opt to continue his club career at The Rec.
Bath head coach Gary Gold is confident that Louw, who is midway through a three-year deal, will extend his stay in the West Country.
Louw has been Bath’s stand-out player since making his debut for the club following the 2011 World Cup.
Internationally, his stock has risen further still since then, with Louw picking up admirers following his performances for the Springboks in the recent Rugby Championship campaign.
Long-term injuries in the South African loose forward division have given Louw the opportunity to make the openside flanker berth his own – and the hard-rucking ball poacher will start against Ireland in Dublin on Saturday (5.30pm).
The 27-year-old’s recent form will heighten the desire of South African Super Rugby franchises to lure him back to his homeland – but while Gold expects significant South African competition for Louw’s signature, he strongly believes that the 13-cap star will remain by the River Avon.
“I’m sure there will be pressure for him to go back home, but I’m confident we can retain him,” said Gold, who previously worked with Louw in his capacity as Springbok assistant coach.
“I don’t think retaining Francois is a problem.”
Louw joined Bath for the 2011-12 season from Cape Town-based Western Province/Stormers – and it could be that a pioneering relationship that is in the early stages of being forged between Bath and Western Province could play its part in keeping him at The Rec.
Gold is a former Western Province coach and on good terms with current boss Allister Coetzee, who last month guided the side to victory in the Currie Cup.
The two coaches are exploring ways of exchanging ideas and players. There is also the potential for the two clubs to share commercial insights that will help them bolster their bottom lines.
The first fruit of Gold’s cross-hemisphere relationship was last month’s signing of Nick Koster. The 23-year-old is the third loose forward to sign for Bath from Province in as many years, with Luke Watson and Louw the others.
“Allister and I are good friends and we would very much like to try to build something of a relationship,” said Gold.
“I have a good relationship with Western Province; I left there on good terms.
“We could share ideas both commercially and from a game point of view. They will need a player at some stage and I’m sure we can help them, and vice versa.”