South African hooker Schalk Brits was an integral part of the Saracens Aviva Premiership winning season, putting in another great performance in the final a few weeks back, which earned him the Man of the Match award. Earlier this week, he was drafted into the Stormers squad (on loan) for their Super Rugby semifinal.
Brits has been a standout player for the London based side since arriving a few seasons back. While everyone in South Africa always knew what he was capable of, he’s now become a fan favourite in the north too, with regular high quality performances and a positive demeanor.
To many, the fact that such a naturally gifted player isn’t playing Test rugby is puzzling. He has been capped just 3 times by South Africa, playing in the away leg of the 2008 Tri Nations, then falling out of the pecking order as bigger, more traditional types were picked ahead of him.
As it stands now, John Smit and Bismarck Du Plessis are the front runners for the Springbok hooker spot. With Brits playing his rugby overseas, others have pushed ahead for the third choice slot. Coach Peter De Villiers recently rattled off the names of five hookers that he would pick ahead of Brits, namely Smit, Du Plessis, Chilliboy Ralepelle, Adrian Strauss, and Bandise Maku. They all play in South Africa, which according to PDV, makes it difficult to pick Brits.
This week however, Brits was called over by the Stormers to provide backup for their crunch semifinal against the Crusaders. Having played number eight for them before, he will provide looseforward cover from the bench, thanks to a special dispensation made by SANZAR after the Stormers explained their injury woes, and unavailability of a young player due to a mugging.
“We wanted a player with the X-factor and Brits brings that to the team,” said Stormers coach Allister Coetzee. “Sanzar has given him permission to play as a loose forward and not as a hooker. He won’t have a problem playing that role because he’s been playing like a loose forward, even though he’s been throwing in the ball at the line-outs and competed in the scrums for Saracens,” he added.
Brits now has one, maybe two, matches to shine. One feels that the chances are miniscule, but this is his last crack at making the World Cup squad. He has shown in the UK that his perceived weaknesses when leaving South Africa – his scrum power and lineout throwing ability – have not been a problem for Saracens. They won the Premiership after all.
“Schalk Brits was just phenomenal, a man possessed,” said Leicester and England scrumhalf Ben Youngs after Brits helped Saracens beat them in the Final. “If anything, he was probably the difference between the two sides,” Youngs added.
After his first Premiership season in 2009, former British & Irish Lion back Will Greenwood said he’s the best signing of the year without a doubt. Austin Healey said after the final this year that Brits could easily be an international center, let alone hooker, and went as far as calling him the best player in the Northern Hemisphere. The plaudits are well deserved, and plentiful.
The guy is a superstar and without a doubt, if he weren’t capped by South Africa, it’s safe to say he would be going to the World Cup this year. As it stands, his chances are very slim. As fans of the man, and of course his style of play, all we can hope for is a change of heart where it counts.
Brits has done the hard yards and having improved the aspects of play that held him back from selection in the past, is now ready to make an impact on the international scene. Even as a bench or third choice hooker, he’s a talent that shouldn’t go to waste, and as we’ve seen on more than one occasion with Saracens, could just be the difference between winning and losing.
Below is a short compilation video of his Man of the Match performance in the recent Aviva Premiership Final. It was chopped down from an original cut that contained over ten minutes of footage and audio praise from the one match alone. If you enjoy the vid, please share the link back to this page with your friends, using the Facebook Share and Tweet buttons below.