PRETORIA – Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus doesn’t come across as a gambling man.
But his insistence on selecting the retired and unattached Schalk Brits for the Boks’ end-of-year tour is a dangerous game of Russian roulette which could leave Erasmus empty handed.
Earlier in the season, it seemed like a wise idea to keep Brits in the loop and on standby when number one hooker Malcolm Marx was injured and Bongi Mbonambi was rusty after not having played Super Rugby.
The presence of Brits in the squad for the series against England and the Rugby Championship had looked like a master stroke, considering that there was not much experienced players going around and the team was thin at No 2 with Chiliboy Ralepelle and Akker van der Merwe the only other options.
But in the short few months since the Boks beat England and put up some encouraging performances in the Rugby Championship, the likes of Van der Merwe and to a lesser extent Ralepelle have shown that they still have something to offer the national team heading to next year’s World Cup.
Brits on the other hand has still had no game time and has spent all of his time in the Bok squad carrying tackle bags and serving as a water boy, while Erasmus has tried hard to convince everyone willing to listen that Brits has been of great assistance in imparting knowledge to the younger players.
The truth of the matter is that Brits needs to play to justify his continued existence in the team just like all the players who have had to prove through form on the field that they are worthy of donning the green and gold.
One would have thought that the Currie Cup was the perfect stage for Brits to show that he still has what it takes to play international rugby at the ripe age of 37, and is a realistic option even as a third-choice hooker for the World Cup.
But Brits’ inactivity goes against everything that Erasmus spoke about at the beginning of his tenure when it came to rewarding form and instead proves right some of Erasmus’ detractors of him wanting to rule with an iron fist.
There is still time for Erasmus to undo the tangled web of mixed messages he is sending to his players and the rugby public at large.
The sooner Brits gets on the field, the better it will be for all involved.
And the sooner that Erasmus trusts the players who are playing their hearts out and gives them a fair chance, the better it will be for every player not to believe in the perception that is depicted in George Orwell’s famous book Animal Farm of “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others”.
Erasmus has gambled big with Brits and it is a gamble that could pay off handsomely, or see him lose big from his change-room to the World Cup.