DURBAN – The hooking position for Rassie Erasmus’s Boks was always going to be a contentious issue following the injury to the number one No 2, Malcolm Marx.
Hero of a bygone Bok era, Bismarck du Plessis was included, and then withdrawn, and then came the inclusion of Schalk Brits.
At 37, and technically a month into retirement, not many predicted a call-up for the long-serving Saracens man, but his recruitment into the squad, in what must be more of an advisory role, is being viewed as a smart move by those who know him well - the English.
Brits is a folk hero in and around London, often being called one of the best imports into the English Premiership. Thus, when he was called into the Bok squad amidst quizzi¬cal faces in South Africa, it was to seeming jealousy from the English.
Neil Hatley, the England scrum coach, has viewed Brits’s call-up as a good move from Rassie Erasmus, as he gains a lot of insight from the veteran, and is almost instantly vindicated thanks to the sterling performance of the overseas-based Boks already in the team.
“You can see what Rassie does; technically he is very good, he does a lot of homework, he is similar to Eddie Jones in that sort of vein,” Hatley began. “Now he has potentially a lot of insight with Schalk Brits in the squad, on those who he plays with at his club, Saracens, and a lot of players that play in the league.
“If you are South African, sitting there looking at it, you have an unbelievable return from Duane Vermeulen and Faf de Klerk. So it makes sense to bring in somebody albeit three or four weeks after his retirement - to bring him straight in.”
Brits has been phenomenal right to the end for Saracens, and the English know what he can offer, and thus now know what he can do against them should he get some game time in the remaining two games.
“Those guys that watch the Premiership know he is a special player; he is not just a good set piece forward, he is good around the park, he has great feet, is a good defender, and brings a lot of life to the team,” Hatley added.
“I saw some of the reports saying it is a stroke of genius, and I think it is a good move.”
On Tendai “Beast” Mtawarira’s 100th cap, Hatley said: “He has been phenomenal for South Africa and the Sharks. He has been in Durban since he arrived from Zimbabwe. He’s been a one-club man, he has done an unbelievable job.”