JOHANNESBURG – Schalk Brits’ former captain at Saracens in London has backed Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus’ decision to pick the 37-year-old hooker in his squad for next month’s four-Test tour of Europe.
Ernst Joubert, who captained Brits on several occasions when they both turned out for Saracens in the English Premiership between 2009 and 2015, said he, too, would pick Brits - and even backed him to go to the World Cup in Japan next year, at the age of 38.
“Schalk is a freak of nature,” said Joubert, who also captained Brits at school, at Paul Roos Gymnasium, at the Craven Week and at Western Province U-21 level.
“Schalk may be turning 38 next year but I promise you he’ll be as fit and strong as anyone in the Bok squad. He’s just a natural athlete and I can fully understand why Rassie has picked him.”
There has been plenty of talk since Saturday night’s Bok squad announcement which featured Brits for November’s tour of Europe where the Boks will play against England, France, Scotland and Wales, starting this week.
Many feel that one of the Sharks’ Currie Cup final heroes, Akker van der Merwe, who is 27 years old and has three Tests behind his name, would have been a better choice than the just-out-of-retirement-Brits, to back up Malcolm Marx and Bongi Mbonambi in Europe.
“The thing with Schalk is he understands the game so well having played in Europe for so many years. He’s always been a top professional and his experience will make a big difference in the Bok squad. Just think how much he can share with the likes of Malcolm and Bongi and the guidance he can give them and the whole squad. And, let’s be honest, his selection, as an older, player, is nothing new.
“Jake (White) picked guys like Percy Montgomery, Os du Randt, Bob Skinstad. And Heyneke (Meyer) got Victor Matfield to come out of retirement to play at a World Cup.
“Obviously, with Malcolm ruled out with injury in June and Schalk having just retired, Rassie thought he could do with an experienced man in his squad for the England series. And, he’s no doubt been impressed.
“Whether Schalk is in the squad as a mentor, or whether he actually plays makes no difference, he’s a guy who’ll add value. His positivity is unreal and the calmness he brings to the set-up is something you don’t get in younger players. And if he is called on to play, you know he will slot right in and deliver a quality performance ... he’s that kind of player.”
And while Joubert said he felt for Van der Merwe, he said the “Angry Warthog” still had plenty of time on his side.
“The World Cup is still a year away ... nothing is decided.
And, anyway, I think Akker will be a core member of the Bok squad in the next few years ... and he’ll still have his say.”@jacq_west