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South Africa vs England: Schalk Brits comes out of retirement to join Sprinboks squad ahead of second Test

The Independent logo The Independent 12/06/2018 Jack de Menezes

© Provided by Independent Digital News & Media Limited Schalk Brits will come out of retirement to make his South Africa comeback three years after his last appearance for the Springboks, with head coach Rassie Erasmus looking to tap into the former Saracens hooker’s extensive knowledge of the English game.

Saturday’s thrilling 42-39 victory over England leaves the three-Test series delicately poised, with South Africa able to wrap up victory in this Saturday’s second Test in Bloemfontein. But as the first 20 minutes in Johannesburg showed, England are more than capable of getting back into the series, having exploded out of the blocks to lead 24-3.

If England can resolve their defensive issues – something far easier said than done after conceding 17 tries in their last three games – Saturday’s second Test will likely prove the defining moment of how the series plays out, but Erasmus is looking to gain any advantage possible.

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Part of that is to utilise Brits’ extensive nine-year knowledge of the English game, with the 37-year-old playing with or against all of Eddie Jones’ 34-man squad beyond the new addition of Brad Shields during his time in the Premiership.

a person that is standing in the grass: schalk-brits1.jpg © Provided by Independent Digital News & Media Limited schalk-brits1.jpg “We are busy with building experience, continuity and capacity towards the Rugby World Cup, so we want our young players rubbing shoulders with experienced players such as Duane Vermeulen and Willie le Roux,” said Erasmus.

“I want Schalk to perform a similar role, because he has extensive knowledge and plenty of experience from playing for Saracens in the English and European conditions. It’s a great way for our younger guys to learn the trade of international rugby from these guys.”

Brits retired after Saracens’ Premiership final victory at the end of last month, having helped the club to all four of their domestic triumphs and the back-to-back European Champions Cup successes in 2015/16 and 2016/17, and he was actually inside Ellis Park on Saturday to watch the first Test as a fan before the call from Erasmus came.

a man running on a baseball field: jack-singleton.jpg © Provided by Independent Digital News & Media Limited jack-singleton.jpg The former Stormers forward will join current options Bongi Mbonambi and Akker van der Merwe fighting for selection at hooker, although any long-term return looks unlikely as Brits is due to take up a place on a full-time masters degree at Oxford University to pursue a career in business.

That said, he certainly had second thoughts about retiring at the end of the 2017/18 campaign given his form this season.

Speaking ahead of the Premiership final, Brits said: “Idon’t know, I’m not really convinced. The difficult thing is when the season started you get really tested in pre-season, and I thought everyone retires around my age. I wasn’t thinking that I’ll still be feeling in such good nick, feeling so great, performing the way I’m performing, and that’s made it even more difficult.

“I guess when you want to retire you don’t want to be shovelled out on a plate and asked to leave. You want to leave on your terms, you never really know when the right time will be.”

England meanwhile have also called in reinforcements at hooker as Jack Singleton has been added to the squad to cover Luke Cowan-Dickie, with the Exeter Chiefs forward suffering from hamstring tightness. Singleton started England’s 63-45 defeat by the Barbarians two weeks ago, though is yet to make his official Test debut as the game was a non-cap encounter. The Worcester Warriors No 2 will arrive in Durban and join England’s training base on Monday, although that in itself has already raised eyebrows given the players appeared to suffer from fatigue during the first Test having not grown used to the altitude after spending their preparations at sea-level on the coast – a factor that South Africa scrum-half Faf de Klerk admitted played a key part in Saturday’s match.

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