Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus says recalled hooker Schalk Brits will have a key role to play as a mentor and as a player over the next two weeks. JON CARDINELLI reports from Bloemfontein.
Last week, SA Rugby confirmed that Bismarck du Plessis and Frans Steyn had been withdrawn from the Bok squad due to unspecified injuries. While Erasmus was unable to shed any light on the mysterious matter, he said that the experienced pair would be missed.
On Monday, Erasmus announced that Brits, the recently retired hooker, had joined the team for the remainder of the series against England. The Bok coach explained that the 37-year-old has come in to play the role that was intended for Du Plessis.
Brits will be considered for selection in the second and third Tests. He will also be expected to ‘coach’ the younger hookers and forwards in the squad.
‘We’ll definitely consider him for the match 23 for the next two games,’ Erasmus said. ‘The whole squad knows where things stand on this point.
‘We are going to try some new things and we are going to encourage a new way of thinking. We want players to learn from guys like Schalk and his approach to the game.
‘He’s not here just to be a “coach”. We will consider him for selection when we feel the time is right.’
Erasmus elaborated on why the veterans will have such an important role to play over the next two weeks. The fact that Brits knows the English players well was factored into the decision to bring him back.
‘Schalk is in the same category as a Bismarck in terms of experience,’ said Erasmus ‘He knows a lot of English players well, as he plays against them regularly in the Premiership.
‘We can only learn from him – specifically, at the scrums, lineouts and in terms of individual players. That made the decision to bring him back easier, but then you have to remember what a quality player he is. He won the Premiership with Saracens a couple of weeks ago. So he’s still on the ball.
‘We all wanted to get Bismarck into the mix [for his experience],’ Erasmus continued. ‘The more the younger guys rub shoulders with him and learn from him, the better. There are small things that you pick up as a player, and it’s good to pass those on.
‘When you get a guy in who has played a lot against different teams and in different countries, who has played against a lot of different styles, you know he is going to add value. We saw that now with Willie le Roux, Faf de Klerk and Duane Vermeulen coming into the squad [ahead of the first Test].
‘As is the case with Duane, I know Schalk really well. I coached him for a while [at the Stormers] and I know what he will bring to the mix.’
Brits, who has 10 Test caps, will be available for the remainder of the series against England.
‘After next week, we will reassess,’ said Erasmus of Brits’ long-term future with the side. ‘He played his last game a couple of weeks ago, so he’s still very fit. But we’ll see where he stands after the game in Cape Town.’
— SA Rugby magazine (@SARugbymag) June 11, 2018
Photo: Steve Haag/Gallo Images