Saturday 19 January 2019

Brits delighted to put off retirement plans to make return for Springboks

Schalk Brits. Photo: Reuters
Schalk Brits. Photo: Reuters

Rúaidhrí O'Connor

Schalk Brits thought the text he received a couple of weeks ago asking him if he wanted "to play some more rugby" was a prank from one of his pals, even though it said that it was from Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus.

Brits had other things on his mind at the time, notably "tequila cocktails with my wife Colinda", on their holiday in Ibiza with their three children.

Brits, who had headed to the Spanish island believing that he had hung up his boots on a high note with Saracens' Premiership title victory over Exeter at Twickenham, decided to check out the seeming hoax by ringing Sarries team-mate and fellow South African Vincent Koch, to check Erasmus's contact details.

They were correct, Erasmus was serious in his inquiry and the Brits family holiday was about to include some unscheduled conversations.

Even so, last Saturday, Brits was at Ellis Park having "a braai, biltong and beers", as he watched South Africa's remarkable 42-39 comeback victory over England, "as a spectator for the first time".

The next morning, Brits went to the England team hotel, the Palazzo Montecasino complex in Johannesburg, to have coffee with his Saracens team-mates, such as Owen Farrell, Jamie George, Maro Itoje and others who "are like brothers to me".

Two hours later, Brits was doing a double-quick change into a Springbok blazer to take the flight to Bloemfontein with the team as they set off to prepare for the second Test. It was a real tale of the unexpected.

"It was weird, as I wasn't able to announce it to anyone until it finally came out on Monday," said Brits, who could well find himself up against the player he helped mentor for several years at Saracens, England hooker Jamie George.

"My friends thought it was me playing a practical joke when I said I was going to join the Springboks. Finally, it was confirmed. Jamie and I have been texting each other to say how weird it all would be if we did line up against each other."

As with this weekend, so with the rest of Brits's immediate life. So much is now up in the air, deliciously uncertain. He had fully intended to step away from rugby.

"Life is for living," he said.

"I have had to shuffle the deck of cards to make this happen. I had to beg the nanny to look after the three boys as my wife is off to Bermuda on Sunday for a conference."

Brits (37) has already been accepted for an executive MBA at Cambridge University starting in September.

He has until July 5 to decide if he wants to apply to Oxford University also, before settling on the best course. He is also due to start a job in the City in August with Investment Holding company, Reinet. Erasmus has stated that Brits has been called up as a player and not just as a mentoring figure. There are injuries at hooker and Brits is a contender.

Last week it was Siya Kolisi's appointment as the first black captain of the Springboks that gave the country such a lift. The Kolisi fairy tale had a heartening airing at Ellis Park and the Brits sequel might well have the same effect.

© Daily Telegraph, London

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport