MARK KEOHANE says Schalk Brits would be a bold but brilliant Springbok selection for the November internationals.
It is unlikely to happen but don’t be surprised if lock Marco Wentzel is part of the Boks three-Test campaign.
Brits, according to those with South African links and actively involved in rugby in Europe and the United Kingdom, is the best hooker in the English Premiership and he is also rated by many as the best in Europe.
He plays for Saracens and has always expressed his desire to play again for the Springboks.
For those in South Africa who haven’t seen much of Brits in the past few seasons, take a look at this Brits performance against Leicester. It just illustrates the class of the player on attack, in defence, doing the basics of hooker play and so much more. You can find many more examples of his performances on Rugbydump.
Heyneke Meyer rates Adriaan Strauss highly and he will probably select Chiliboy Ralepelle and Craig Burden as back up to Strauss for the Tests against Ireland, Scotland and England.
Bath director of rugby and former Bok forwards coach Gary Gold says Brits would add a dimension to the Boks.
‘He has been brilliant for the last few seasons and is so highly regarded over here,’ Gold told keo.co.za. ‘There are several European and English-based South African players still good enough to play for the Springboks, which doesn’t necessarily mean they are better options than what is in South Africa. But Brits, in the absence of injured Bismarck du Plessis, would be a player I’d not hesitate in getting involved. He commands presence and there is huge respect in the English game, especially, for his ability.’
Former Bok and Italy coach Nick Mallett said Brits would be the one overseas-based player he would look to in the November internationals.
‘More so in light of the absence of [Bismarck] du Plessis. You have a guy who consistently has been the best performer in his position. He knows the opposition. He knows the conditions and he is not a player at the tail end of his season, as is always the negative for the southern hemisphere sides touring in November and of course for the northern hemisphere sides touring here, Australia and New Zealand in June. Fatigue is always a factor to be considered and Brits, of the South Africans abroad, has been a big performer for some seasons.’
Mallett singled out Francois Louw and Ruan Pienaar, who will be selected, as quality additions to the squad and said he had been impressed with the contributions of Bakkies Botha, Gurthro Steenkamp and Rory Kockott.
Injuries may force Meyer to look at a veteran like Botha, but outside of that he is expected to put his faith in those who played in the Rugby Championship.
Brits would be a bolter, even though he should be selected on ability and performance, but the player who may be the bolter is lock Marco Wentzel, who played for the Boks as a youngster a decade ago.
Wentzel lacks the physicality of Eben Etzebeth, Flip van der Merwe and Botha, but he is primarily a No 5 lock and Meyer told keo.co.za earlier in the week it was the one area of concern because of injury to Andries Bekker and Ulster-based Johann Muller. Juandre Kruger assumed the responsibility in the three-Test series against England played in South Africa earlier in the season, but Wentzel has been consistently impressive as a winner of lineout ball and in his organisation of the lineout.
Wentzel, capped just twice for the Boks, has enjoyed spells at Leicester and Leeds and is now integral to the forward pack at London Wasps.
For those unfamiliar with his contribution read Brendan Gallagher’s feature in the London Telegraph on how Wentzel is viewed within the Wasps coaching structure. He has assumed a role very similar to Victor Matfield’s at the Bulls and Boks.
Meyer also confirmed that none of the Japanese-based trio Fourie du Preez, Danie Rossouw and Jacque Fourie are available for selection because of the structure of their respective club contracts.