Schalk Brits has reflected on his career which ended on the highest of notes in Japan after confirming that he will hang up his boots for the second time in two years.
The 38-year-old was lured out of retirement in 2018 by Rassie Erasmus to join the Springboks – after he had decided to call it a day on an already sparkling rugby career which included over 200 appearances for English giants Saracens.
Prior to receiving Erasmus’ call, Brits had not played for the Boks since the 2015 World Cup. Though he has only made 15 Test appearances over 12 years, the ever-smiling Brits will go back into retirement with a World Cup winners’ medal.
‘I was happy and content with my career when I decided to retire at the end of the English season in 2018, and I was on holiday with my family in Ibiza when I got a text message from Rassie Erasmus,’ Brits explained. ‘At first I thought it was Vincent Koch playing a joke.
‘When I realised it was really Rassie, I decided to give it one last shot and ended up playing for the Vodacom Bulls, something I never thought would happen as a born-and-bred Capetonian, but I loved my time in Pretoria and we had a good season as well.
‘Playing in Pretoria was tough on my family, but I’ve not regretted it for one day, as it gave me a shot at playing for the Boks again. It was a season of sacrifice, but it was worth it. When we saw Rassie’s plan – and everyone bought in – we knew what we could achieve and all of us worked towards that goal.
‘Everyone knew their roles and how much hard work it would take, and we got stuck in. As a squad, we spent a lot of time together and it was unbelievable being part of this experience.’
Despite being part of the Bok squad throughout 2018, Brits only managed a substitute’s appearance in the third Test of the series against England in Cape Town.
Brits was far more involved on the field in 2019, playing as a replacement against Australia and captaining the Springboks against Argentina in Pretoria and in the World Cup against Namibia.
‘I didn’t expect to be named captain and I was very proud, but it was an easy job with the guys around me,’ said Brits. ‘The World Cup was an amazing experience for all of us – we decided to embrace Japan and make the most of it.
‘I realised later in my career that I only had control over my own performance, and not that of other players or team selection. So my view was to give it my best shot, but also to push the other hookers in the squad as hard as I could, and if I get selected, great – but it wasn’t the end of the world if I didn’t play and I wasn’t going to upset the apple cart.’
Brits sees his role within the Springboks differently to most.
‘For me, this was about the journey, experiences and making memories, and being part of something special. Winning almost became a by-product of it all, not that we didn’t put in a lot of hard work and effort to be successful.
‘Leaving Japan with a gold medal was obviously great, but even if we hadn’t won, I would still have loved going to Japan, ‘ he added. ‘Being part of an amazing tournament and a wonderful Springbok squad.’
Photo: Steve Haag via HollywoodBets