Schalk Brits retired from rugby not long before his return to the Springbok squad. Photo: Muzi Ntombela/BackpagePix
Schalk Brits retired from rugby not long before his return to the Springbok squad. Photo: Muzi Ntombela/BackpagePix
Brits helped Saracens to the Premiership title in what was supposed to be his final season. Photo: Reuters/Jason Cairnduff
Brits helped Saracens to the Premiership title in what was supposed to be his final season. Photo: Reuters/Jason Cairnduff

CAPE TOWN - Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus says he’s eyeing “four or five” personnel changes for their third and final Test against England on Saturday. Erasmus said the changes will come in handy seeing as wet conditions can be expected at Newlands this weekend, while preparations for the World Cup will also play a role as the Boks hope to make it a series whitewash over Eddie Jones’ team.

One of the players we could see get a run this weekend is hooker Schalk Brits, who retired from all rugby at the end of the 2017/18 season with English club Saracens. Brits was called up to the national squad ahead of the second Test in Bloemfontein.

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“We are going to make a few changes, not just because we already won the series, but also because the weather conditions will play a role and some guys will probably fit in better. We want to try a few things out, so there will probably be four or five changes,” Erasmus said. “Schalk Brits will come into reckoning for this game yes, whether that’s in a starting role or on the bench.

"I think in your key positions in previous World Cups - your nine, 10, hooker, No 5 lock and 15 - that’s where you want to be sure that if two or three guys suddenly go down that you have those reserves. New Zealand played with five different flyhalves in the 2011 World Cup, so Schalk will be one of those guys we want to test somewhere.”

Erasmus further explained that the 37-year-old Brits’ experience has helped a lot in terms of guiding the younger front-rowers in the Bok squad: “His plan was to retire, after this weekend we’ll have a sit-down and see where we are in terms of depth and experience. With Chiliboy (Ralepelle) and Bongi (Mbonambi) and Malcolm (Marx) there and Akkerr (Armand van der Merwe) really doing well, that’s your solid hookers.

"We wanted to have a look at Bismarck (du Plessis) but the timing just didn’t work out. I really think Schalk is the kind of guy who can play until he’s 38. I think playing one more season wouldn’t be impossible. We just have to take stock, but if we have to press on his number for the World Cup we’ll definitely make a plan around that. His experience has helped some of the younger guys tremendously.”

“The trick now is to balance team selection with continuity to give those guys as much of a chance as possible before the World Cup. You don’t want to go and lose all your momentum by making 10 changes. We’ll make changes with the World Cup in mind.”

In terms of the style of play, Erasmus said that the conditions will determine what they do with the ball on Saturday. In their first international challenge under Erasmus in Washington DC three weeks ago, the Springboks were also exposed to tough conditions in a match they lost 20-22. And while Erasmus admitted that it was a “boring” show in the USA and not one they want to replicate at all, he hinted that they might go for a more direct approach this weekend.

“It’s difficult to predict. If the conditions are wet it’ll be typical Test-match rugby. We would be stupid to try and play a beautiful running game in those conditions. The game in Washington was played in really tough conditions and I know it was a boring game to watch, so hopefully it’s not exactly like that. But conditions will determine the way we play.”

Cape Argus

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