Cape Town – Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus’s call-up of Saracens hooker Schalk Brits may not be as much a surprise as a masterstroke that could go a long way to helping the Boks clinch the series against England this Saturday in Bloemfontein.
It is true that Brits had signed off his last game for Saracens and was planning to retire. He flew to Johannesburg to attend Saturday’s first test between the two sides as a spectator, but he now finds himself in the Springbok camp and judging by his smile, he couldn’t be happier at the call-up.
The 37-year-old Brits has been exceptional in the English Premiership, so much so that he was dubbed the “best import to ever play” in the English domestic competition by the London Sunday Times last month.
But while there is every chance that Brits may make his first appearance since the 2015 World Cup and add to his 10 test caps in a Springbok jersey, his knowledge of the English players will be of vital importance as the Boks want to sew up the test series with a victory this coming weekend.
Erasmus has confirmed he wanted Brits for his experience, especially as Bismarck du Plessis was ruled out of the squad earlier and Malcolm Marx is still injured.
“(He will be here ) At least until next week until we play the last test match in Cape Town. We all know we wanted to get Bismarck in, and I feel the more guys you have who have been there and done that, the more the younger guys learn from them,” Erasmus said.
“When we played I think things have changed a little bit, so it is a bit more relevant, guys who played in different competitions and in different countries with different styles always bring something to the party. We saw this with Willie, Faf and Duane. As with the case with Duane, I know Schalk really well and also coached him for a while. I know what he will bring to us and he will be with us until next week until after the test match. After that we will reassess where he is. He played his last game two weeks ago so he is still fit and ready.”
Erasmus said the fact that Brits knows and plays with many of the English players will make a marked difference to preparation and he can guide the younger hookers through what to expect.
“Obviously it helps a bit. But I think he is in the same category as a Bismarck, especially in terms of experience. And especially with different teams and he knows a lot of the English players well, a lot of their styles well. We can only learn from him, especially in terms of scrums and lineouts and individual players.
“Yes, so that was definitely something that made the choice easier but then the quality player he is – still two weeks ago he won a Premiership, so he is pretty much on the ball.”
Erasmus left the door open for Brits to come into the match-day squad, especially if he continues to be part of the coach’s “brave” selections this season.
“We will definitely consider him for the match-day 23 for the next few games and the whole squad knows exactly where we stand with him and everybody. We are going to try a few things and let players learn from each other.
“Start learning from other guys and the way they approach the games, with him being on the field somewhere hopefully. But that isn’t a given, we will see how things pan out. He is definitely not here just to be a coach, he is definitely here as a player as well so when we get the opportunity we will definitely consider it.”
Brits took part in his first training session with his teammates in Bloemfontein on Monday.
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