Brits recall a smart move?

The AOR team debate the merits of retired hooker Schalk Brits parachuting into Bloemfontein as the Springboks aim to clinch a three-Test series against England.

Tank Lanning – YES
From full on retirement, to spectating at Ellis Park, to potentially turning out for the Boks in Bloem on Saturday. Madness or masterstroke?

Pure genius from Rassie!

At 1.82 m and 99 kg, Brits was deemed too small for the South African game, which has traditionally revolved around blunt force trauma up front. But the game in general has evolved, and the new Bok coach is seemingly intent on following suit rather than adding a wagon to the laager.

So, apart from the obvious benefit of the information he has on the English players, there is now also space and scope for a player like Brits – who made 31 offloads in the Premiership this year, second-most in the comp – in an evolving Bok side. Especially off the bench.

Enter the oke dubbed the “best import to ever play” in the English Premiership by the London Sunday Times. Nicknamed ‘Peter Pan’ by Saracens’ director of rugby, Mark McCall, the Daily Mail “cannot recall a foreign player who has had more of a sustained impact in the English game. There have been countless iconic imports over the years, but Brits trumps the lot.”

Both Faf de Klerk and Willie le Roux looked to be enjoying getting under the skin of their Premiership teammates and Test opponents on Saturday. It must have gone a long way to giving the side the composure they showed after finding themselves 3-24 down after 20 minutes. I would expect more of the same from Brits. Imagine how unsettling that must be for the Poms?

And it’s not as if he is guaranteed a ride to the World Cup, or permanently unseating the hugely promising Akker van der Merwe. Instead, to mentor the latter and provide some fresh insight to a sponge like new Bok side.

Zelím Nel – NO
No. Nein. Nyet! Brits was “sipping tequilas in Ibiza” before he checked into Ellis Park for last week’s Test. His Bok recall is so far-fetched that it took some convincing when he shared the news with former Saracens teammates.

I say “former” because Brits has retired from rugby. He’s 37 years old. At his peak, the Paul Roos old boy was 1.82m tall and 99kgs. During his time at the Stormers, he stood on Ricky Januarie’s shoulders to look Andries Bekker in the eyes. His lack of prototypical size, and the performance consequences thereof, are the primary reason that Brits only started one Test between 2008 and 2015.

With the heart of a lion and guts like a sumo wrestler, Brits quickly (and impressively) adapted to the set-piece demands of northern hemisphere rugby and, coupled with his engaging personality, became an instant hit with supporters and the media.

However, in the eyes of Bok selectors, Brits’ prodigious playmaking skill-set seldom compensated for the seven centimetres and 15kgs he gave up to a prototypical Test leviathan, such as Bismarck du Plessis.

Brits does offer the Boks value. His extensive knowledge of Saracens’ lineout system, said to be the basis of England’s model, will have had Eddie Jones and Steve Borthwick huddling for an unscheduled codemaking workshop this week.

He’ll also know how many sugars each of Mako Vunipola, Jamie George, Maro Itoje, Nick Isiekwe, Billy Vunipola and Ben Earl take with their coffee. And there is something to be said for sharing a few method tips with Bongi Mbonambi, Akker van der Merwe and Chiliboy Ralepelle, who have 5 Test starts combined.

But this could have been achieved by adding Brits as a coaching consultant, which wouldn’t have shown a giant middle finger to the SA-based hookers not in the Bok squad.

You’ve heard what they’ve had to say, now where do you stand in the Big Debate?

- Big Debate

Let's chat

  • John Comyn

    Classics! “Schalk Brits parachuting into Bloemfontein” I’m guessing you guys know 44 Parachute Regiment is based at Tempe, Bloemfontein. “blunt force trauma from up front” and “adding a wagon to the laager.” Classics I tell ya!
    Common Zelim credit Rassie for a bit of “out the box” thinking. I suspect it is a short term arrangement or contract to get valuable intel on the English. To appoint him as part of the coaching staff would not be feasible for a whole lot of reasons not unrelated to rugby.

  • V Square

    Great thinking. He know the Poms, their style of play and tactics. Give the Boks insight into Eddies thinking. PLUS his knowledge of Northern Hemisphere players and teams will can be massive for Akker, Numbi and or even Malcolm prior to 2019 RWC. I presume that he will play of the bench and that is the time where he can be devastating with his speed, ball skills and support play on any close to ruck line breaks. Would have loved to see him play next or of line breaks from Eben, Malcolm and RG. I believe we will see a new dimension of Rassies thinking and developing play-making in the Boks.

  • Sharky

    Zelím, which SA-based hookers would you have rather been selected? None of them scream “select me” apart from Torsten van Jaarsveld and he is unfortunately a Namibian international.

    Horses for courses – Brits is a great selection for a series against the English.

    • Stanley

      Strauss, experienced and also in or is it out of retirement

  • Christo

    Master stroke by Rassie. He will definitely play off the bench. He knows the English players inside and out. He will assess very quickly what their game plan(s) are and be invaluable when he comes on as a sub.

  • Wesley

    Only negative Zelim makes is the supposed middlefinger to other SA based hookers. There are none left to make the squad, to be frank. And the consultant appointment wouldn’t be accepted by SA rugby possibly over contractual issues. So I’m with Tank on this one.

    I don’t even think Britz will play. He’s here to waste England’s time in workshops rather than proper field practice. And even if he does and they do not get all their calls sorted, it will be a nightmare for the English pack to adapt.

  • Alan

    Once again, Zelim Nel is wrong. I had this opinion before I read the article, mind you, having had the misfortune of working with him for five years. My only shock was that he managed to prevent any Americanisms from slipping into his ‘prose’. Nel, once again you’ve had the audacity to question one of the nation’s most loved servants. Albeit a servant who was under-appreciated here but who made us proud from afar. This is akin to questioning Schalk Burger’s place next to God, which to my utmost dismay, you also did regularly. What’s next Nel? Nelson Mandela? Where does it stop with you for Pete’s sake?

    • Zelim Nel Zelim Nel

      LOL! This was a brave but foolish move by you in Banter Games – you may have won the battle, but I will win the war!

      • Simnikiwe.xabanisa Xabanisa

        Love your Love, Actually start, Zels…

  • William W. Ellis

    Maybe he’s an English double agent, Zelim?

  • SweetAz

    Great move and inspired out of the “Boks” thinking. The man who engineered lights up in the stands and got a Freestate team to play like the AB’s before the AB’s knew you could play like that strikes again. The only downside is that his selection will show just how stupid South African rugby has been for a lonnnggggg time.

    This guy is probably who Dane Coles dreams he could emulate when he falls asleep sucking his thumb at night. For anybody who thinks he’s too old catch a wake-up, Foreman heavyweight champ at 45 knocked out a 27 year old, Brad Thorn played till 41, Yoel Romero is 41 and anybody who calls him old is likely to spend the next 5 minutes sleeping. Age is just a number, the really sad thing is that the local hookers who might get their noses out of joint are nowhere near the same class as Brits,–in fact they aren’t even in high school yet compared to him.

    What kind of stupid name is Zelim anyway?–Another one of those where the parents add parts of their names together to come up with something meaningless.—much like his opinion.

  • Dean

    He was a mentor to Jamie George at Saracens. We all know he is one of the top hookers in the world now. Why not do the same for the Boks young hookers? I support this decision by Rassie. There are no other hookers in SA at International level yet. The Wales game showed that. Akker and Bongi will learn a lot from Schalk.

  • Dean

    The whole of the anti-South African players overseas brigade ate their words last weekend. No more questions about the quality of the European leagues or can they keep up with the pace of the International game. What happened to the question marks on a SA player’s conditioning because he plays overseas. There’s plenty of humble pie to be had.

  • Barry Smith

    We need to nail this test and the series with it. With the experience and skills of Brits this is more likely than without him, so good plan! We can experiment all we want next week with the three local options! Interesting point for me was that Tuesday was considered too late for Bismarck and Frans to be included in the weekend squad, yet here we see Brits slipped right in? Suggests there was more to that episode than found its way into press!

    • Stanley

      You are spot on Barry. It was more about the club bosses being reluctant to release their assets (players). Brits is out of contract so only answer to himself

  • Cobus Brits

    Its a win win situation for the Boks. If any of the hookers get injured, who better to take up the slack than Brits. Apart from these tests what happens if Marx cannot recover fully ala Whiteley. Bismarck not recovering/club restrictions and Akker goes down.

    With WC looming we need experienced hands fast. Many a player has played their best rugby in a WC year and then retired.
    Hopefully there would be no need to use him like that but remember the AB’s won the WC in 2011 with Cruden as third choice flyhalf who was a week or two before the test cruising around on his skateboard and watching the games on the telly.

    • Dean

      Didn’t their 4th flyhalf, Stephen Donald come on early after Cruden got injured? He slotted the winning penalty too I think.

      • Stanley

        Sorry Brits, Dean is correct here ………. but that was the order … first Cruden and then 4th choice Donald

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