Drug ban behind Force scrum-half

Nick Taylor
Ryan Louwrens. Pic: Michael O'Brien/WA News

Western Force have given scrum-half Ryan Louwrens a second chance at a professional rugby career after being banned for two years for using anabolic steroids as a teenager in South Africa.

Scrum-half Louwrens, 22, who plays for Cottesloe, and UWA inside back Luke Burton, 19, who represented Australia in this year's Junior World Cup, have come through the Force academy to sign one-year extended squad contracts.

Johannesburg-born Louwrens, a former Churchlands High School student, joined the academy in 2008, but returned to South Africa a year later to finish his schooling. He represented Valke in the Craven Week schoolboys tournament and the under-19 Currie Cup before being hit with the sanction. He rejoined the academy in 2011 and represented the Force A side for the past two seasons.

A survey revealed that one in six rugby players at some of South Africa's top schools had tested positive for various steroids and Louwrens, who was introduced to the drug by another player, said there was huge pressure to succeed.

"I was 18 and uninformed, young and stupid," he said.

"I wouldn't say I was unaware. I was basically uninformed about the substance. It was pretty stupid and I had two years where I couldn't play rugby at any level.

"For two years I was stressed out hoping and praying to get the opportunity again. I never thought it would come around. Now it has happened, it's unreal.

"I have learnt from my mistakes and I've moved on. I'm so grateful for the Force for this opportunity."

Burton, a former Hale schoolboy, turned down interest from Melbourne Rebels.

He played for WA under-15, 16, 17 and schoolboy sides before making the junior Wallabies, playing all five matches in this year's tournament in France, scoring two tries.

"I'm really excited, it's an awesome feeling and I'm grateful for the opportunity," Burton said.

"Being born and bred in WA, it has always been a goal and aspiration to play for the Force."

Six local players have been recruited for 2014, with Louwrens and Burton joining prop Kieran Longbottom and backs Kyle Godwin, Dane Haylett-Petty and Zack Holmes.

Foley was pleased to have a record number of local players in his squad.

"We are a WA team and it's important we acknowledge quality local talent," Foley said.

"Luke and Ryan have earned their opportunity through consistent performances in the local competition."