Rassie Erasmus says veteran hooker Schalk Brits is still very much part of the Springboks’ long-term plans, writes CRAIG LEWIS.
Erasmus named a 35-man squad for the Rugby Championship on Monday, with fit-again Malcolm Marx, Akker van der Merwe and Bongi Mbonambi included as the three hookers.
However, the Bok coach reiterated at a press conference in Stellenbosch that it did not mean he had forgotten about Brits, who came out of retirement in a surprise move to feature off the bench in the Springboks’ final Test against England in June.
The 37-year-old Brits had been set to hang up his boots after completing a stellar career with English club Saracens earlier this year, but Erasmus saw an opportunity to revive his Test career in order to add some much-needed experience to the Boks’ hooker stocks.
Despite Brits’ omission from the Rugby Championship squad, SARugbymag.co.za understands that talks are at an advanced stage for him to join the Bulls in the hope of remaining in contention for World Cup consideration next year.
Bismarck du Plessis is another player who remains highly regarded by Erasmus, but the France-based veteran continues to battle with an injury that could well curtail his career.
Erasmus said he was very pleased with the local options available in the hooker position – Chiliboy Ralepelle is another player who has missed out for the Rugby Championship – but also insisted that Brits remains in the reckoning.
‘We have three very good hookers in our group at the moment, and I think you can win a World Cup with their quality in the squad. But if one of them goes down [with injury], then you can find yourself in trouble, and that’s why a guy like Schalk or Bismarck might not even make the World Cup squad if these three remain fit and in form.
‘But in terms of solid backup with guys who have been there and done that, you want to have some alternative options. Schalk is definitely still fit enough and he’s in talks with a few clubs, and l would like to keep him interested and in the mix, so that we can call on him if need be.’