Heinrich Brüssow says he is determined to get back into the Springboks fold but stressed he won’t change his style of play to achieve that.
Brüssow was a surprise exclusion from the squad for the England series for some, but those privy to coach Heyneke Meyer’s selection criteria understood that he was concerned about the Cheetahs opensider’s limitations, particularly in terms of ball-carrying. Meyer was also wary of the high ratio of penalties to steal attempts Brüssow conceded, feeling he could be a liability in Test matches.
Meyer opted for Marcell Coetzee in Schalk Burger’s injury-enforced absence. The Sharks youngster impressed, looking at home on the Test stage and seemingly fitting the bill of the all-rounder Meyer wants in the No 6 shirt.
Coetzee, Burger and the Stormers’ Siya Kolisi, whom Meyer rates highly, are ahead of Brüssow in the pecking order at this point. And while the 25-year-old is desperate to play Test rugby once more, he said he won’t compromise his strengths in pursuit of that goal.
‘Not making the squad for the England series hurt, especially since I’ve been there before and know what the environment is like. There’s nothing like playing Test rugby and to miss out on that was disappointing,’ he told keo.co.za.
‘How I respond now is crucial. I didn’t see it as a negative thing entirely though. It is a challenge for me to play well enough to get back there. But I won’t change my style of play. I’m not the ball carrier they are looking for, that’s not my strength. I could bulk up but then I’ll compromise my strength – my ability to get to the breakdown quickly and contest the ball. It’s the way I’ve played my entire professional career and I can’t change now.’
Brüssow said he was aware that this stance would make it more difficult to break into the squad again, but explained that he would build his case for inclusion by attempting to excel at his craft.
‘They did really well playing with the type of openside the coach prefers, so I’m in no position to complain,’ he said. ‘But the key for me is to become so efficient at what I do that it makes it very difficult for the selectors to ignore me. That means I’ve worked very hard on my speed, so that I get around the park quicker, which in turn would potentially give me that half second more to get to the breakdown first and turnover or slow possession.
‘Speed, timing, anticipation and sharp decision-making is crucial for any opensider. If I can get those areas of my game to where I want them to, I hope it will force a rethink for the Springboks.’
Brüssow, however, added that he wasn’t approaching the Cheetahs’ remaining Super Rugby matches as an opportunity to make a statement. ‘No, that’s not the case at all. If I have anything to prove it is to myself. I want to get to the goals I have set for myself and in the process help the Cheetahs to finish the season strongly. If the by-product of that is Springbok selection then great.’
By Ryan Vrede