Brits: It’s about the territory battle
JOHANNESBURG: Englandbased hooker Schalk Brits has shed some light on what South African rugby fans can expect from the Springboks at the World Cup over the next seven to eight weeks. And, it’s not going to be to everyone’s liking ... but it might lead to a third world title.
“It’s a territorial battle (in the Northern Hemisphere). Unfortunately, you don’t want to hear this, but at a World Cup in the Northern Hemisphere you’re not going to see a score of 50-10. It’s going to be much closer than that.
“If you’re going to be successful, you’ve got to cut out the mistakes in your half of the field and put pressure on the opposition in their half so they make the mistakes. That’s the secret of winning in the northern hemisphere.”
Brits should know, after spending the last eight seasons playing across Europe for Saracens. He’s won multiple trophies for his English team after previously playing for the Lions and Western Province. Now, at the age of 34, he’s on his way to his first World Cup.
The good news for the Boks, though, is the conditions in September and October are not nearly as bad as they are in November when the team usually embark on their annual European tour.
“It’s quite different now. The skies are a little more open September 19: South Africa v Japan, Brighton Community Centre, Brighton, 5.45pm September 26: South Africa v Samoa, Villa Park, Birmingham, 5.45pm October 3: South Africa v Scotland, St James’ Park, Newcastle, 5.45pm October 7: South Africa v USA, Olympic Stadium, London, 5.45pm when in November there’s a 90% chance of it either snowing or raining and the wind blowing, or all three at the same time, but now you can have some quite beautiful days,” he said. “The key thing is the coaching team will have to check the weather forecasts regularly, because if you don’t, it can be a bit of a gamble what you’re going to get. And the weather will, of course, determine what kind of game you’re going to play.”
Brits won’t only be able to help in this regard, but also pass on some valuable information about certain Northern Hemisphere players the Boks might come up against. “I know the conditions, I know a lot of the players. And, I also know it’s a different way of playing the game,” he said.
“Before I moved to Saracens I played a certain way. But once I got to Europe I had to learn very quickly that the game’s not as open as I’d been used to. Scrums, lineouts, mauls and rucks played a much bigger role. I had to adapt quickly and learn to play a different style of rugby.”
It’s that style the Boks will in all probability adopt, too, when they come up against their Pool B opponents from next weekend. It’s the reason why coach Heyneke Meyer has picked certain players ahead of others for he, too, knows what rugby is like on the heavier fields of Europe, having toured there a few times in the past and coached at Leicester Tigers.
Brits – who makes it very clear his first job is to throw the ball into the lineout and scrum well before he can have a run – is very much the third-choice hooker in the group, behind Bismarck du Plessis and Adriaan Strauss, but he doesn’t see it that way at all.
“I don’t look at first, second or third-choice ... I just want to make the most of my opportunity when it comes. I know I play a little differently to other hookers so when I do get a chance I’ll bring that to the game,” he said.
“When 2011 came and went and I wasn’t picked I thought that would be it for me. I’m just over the moon to be here and going to a World Cup. I’ll bring a vibe to the team ... I might be one of the older players now, but I’ll bring the excitement of a 20-year-old. There will be some fun as well; it’s important to enjoy every moment.”
The Boks leave OR Tambo on two flights to Heathrow tonight.