World Cup-winning Springbok Schalk Brits has blown away one of the biggest names in South African mountain biking with his natural skills on the bike.
As soon as lockdown alert level 3 was announced, former professional mountain biker and now respected coach Joanna Dobinson was out riding her favourite trail in Stellenbosch. There she bumped into Brits and a few of his new cycling friends. She followed him down a particularly technical stretch of single track, expecting him to go slow. Instead, the Rugby World Cup star surprised her with his skills as he took on the challenge like an experienced pro.
‘I couldn’t believe how good he was. He’s totally fearless,’ said Dobinson, who has coached several professional mountain bikers.
‘He has great flow on the bike. He had the correct technique and was using his body to turn the bike, not the handle bar. I’ve coached over 7,500 people in the past six years and I train world champions, so I can spot talent. And he’s got it.’
Brits said he was surprised by the positive feedback on his skills, considering this is the first time he’s been back on a bicycle since primary school.
‘When I first started, I didn’t know how to change gears. The last time I cycled was in primary school to school and back. But they told me speed is your friend on a mountain bike, so I just went as fast as I could down that hill.’
The former Springbok and Vodacom Bulls hooker says mountain biking ticks a few boxes for him now post rugby.
‘Most of us rugby players get a bit chubby after we retire. My young boys also cycle, so it’s a great activity to do with them. And it gives me that same feeling of adrenalin when I used to run on to the pitch for a game. It’s a lot of fun, and the cycling community are a great bunch of people.’
Brits says he’s considering taking part in the gruelling Absa Cape Epic mountain-bike challenge, and Dobinson thinks he’d be a good fit for the race.
‘I’ve coached a few former rugby players, and I’ve seen them do the Epic. Rugby players are just so strong and they have the mental capacity to deal with what the Epic brings. They have a level of power, fitness and skill that’s noticeable.’