Belfast Telegraph

Monday 22 December 2014

England can be best - Brits

Schalk Brits has credited the English domestic game for his improvement
Schalk Brits has credited the English domestic game for his improvement

South Africa hooker Schalk Brits knows the English game better than any other Springbok and he believes Stuart Lancaster's young side will grow into the best England team of all time.

Brits has consistently been one of the outstanding players in the Aviva Premiership since his move to Saracens in 2009, helping the Men In Black to their title triumph in 2011. The 31-year-old hooker plays his club rugby alongside the likes of Owen Farrell and Chris Ashton and he spent three years being coached by England current assistant Andy Farrell.

"You can't make miracles from day one," Brits said, when asked about England's defeat to Australia last week. "They have the right coaches, the right set up and very good players."

He added: "They have come together as a very young squad but they are building caps and that is what they need. This England squad can be the best ever. They can match the 2003 squad. I think the 2015 World Cup is realistic. If they stick to their guns and play the way they can play, I can't see them not becoming a great squad."

Brits holds the English game in great affection and an appearance off the Springbok bench on Saturday would mark a career highlight for him. When Brits left South Africa for Saracens he had won two Springbok caps but he was no longer in the plans of then-head coach Pieter de Villiers.

Although a dynamic ball carrier and skilful footballer, the Springboks felt Brits lacked the necessary scrummaging power and toughness. Brits feels the English game has helped him improve in those areas but even when he was winning Premiership player of the year awards he never thought a Springbok return was on the cards.

But Bismarck du Plessis is injured and new coach Heyneke Meyer has taken a different view on selecting overseas-based players. Brits is joined by the likes of Bath's Francois Louw and Ulster's Ruan Pienaar and he has returned to the national squad with a different attitude. The sense of entitlement has gone.

"If my role is holding tackle bags or playing four minutes off the bench (like I did against Scotland last week), I am here to serve my country and it is a great privilege," Brits said. "It has been awesome at Sarries, not just from a rugby perspective but from a lifestyle perspective. I am loving London, I am loving life. I am happy here.

"I wasn't expecting to play for the Springboks again when I signed for Sarries. This is a great bonus. I have a very different attitude. Back then I felt I deserved it. You never deserve it, it is an honour to play in the jersey and every minute now I enjoy.

"It would be amazing to play a Test match against the English at Twickenham. From schoolboy age, you want to play for the Boks but where better than to play a Test at Twickenham against England? And they are not wearing purple. That is what I want to hear!"

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