The perfect ending for the ever-smiling Brits
IN THE SPOTLIGHT: World Cup-winning Springbok forward Schalk Brits, 38, retired for the second time, and insisted there would not be another comeback.
“Leaving [World Cup host nation] Japan with a gold medal was the perfect ending,” stressed the ever-smiling Brits who quit in 2018 only to be lured back by coach Rassie Erasmus.
“I was on holiday with my family in Spain when I got a text message from Rassie, but at first I thought it was [Springbok prop] Vincent Koch playing a joke,” recalled Brits.
“When I realised it was really Rassie, I decided to give it one last shot and played for the Bulls and Springboks.
“Playing in Pretoria was tough on my family, but I’ve not regretted it for one day, as it gave me a shot at playing for the Boks again.
“It was a season of sacrifice, but it was worth it. When we saw Rassie’s plan – and everyone bought in – we knew what we could achieve and all of us worked towards that goal.
“Everyone knew their roles and how much hard work it would take, and we got stuck in. As a squad, we spent a lot of time together and it was unbelievable being part of this experience.”
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👋 Ever-smiling @SchalkBrits says goodbye
💥 Bok captain and RWC winner retires … again
🗣 “This was about the journey, experiences and making memories.”
— Springboks (@Springboks) November 13, 2019
Brits said as the Boks’ season progressed and they won the Rugby Championship, the belief in the squad that they could go all the way, started to grow. He was also very proud to captain the side against Argentina.
“I didn’t expect to be named captain and I was very proud, but it was an easy job with the guys around me,” said Brits.
“The Rugby World Cup in Japan was an amazing experience for all of us – we decided to embrace Japan and make the most of it.”
On his own role in the team, Brits said he saw it a bit differently to what most people thought: “I realised later in my career that I only had control over my own performance, and not that of other players or team selection.
“So my view was to give it my best shot, but also to push the other hookers in the squad as hard as I could, and if I get selected, great – but it wasn’t the end of the world if I didn’t play and I wasn’t going to upset the apple cart,” he said.
“For me, this was about the journey, experiences and making memories, and being part of something special. Winning almost became a by-product of it all, not that we didn’t put in a lot of hard work and effort to be successful.
The third-choice hooker at the World Cup behind Bongi Mbonambi and Malcolm Marx, he started in the huge pool victories over Namibia and Canada, scoring a try in each match.
“Schalk was an invaluable member of our squad and someone who lifted the spirit among the players,” said Erasmus.
“He set an example with his professionalism and superb workrate throughout the last two seasons.”
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Brits made 15 Test appearance since debuting against Italy in 2008 and was part of the Springbok team that finished third at the 2015 World Cup in England.
He played for the Stormers, Lions and Bulls and spent nine seasons with the London-based Saracens from 2009.
Akker van der Merwe of the Sale Sharks and Joseph Dweba of the Cheetahs are among those who will hoping to replace Brits in the Springbok squad next year.
Since South Africa defeated England 32-12 in the World Cup Final on November 2, forwards Tendai ‘The Beast’ Mtawarira, 34, Francois Louw, 34, and Brits have officially retired.
Media reports have hinted that forward Duane Vermeulen, 33, and utility back Francois Steyn, 32, will follow suit.
AFP & SA Rugby