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?