Owner Nigel Wray today made it clear Schalk Brits will not be returning to Saracens for another season despite the hooker’s expected inclusion the South African match squad against England in Cape Town on Saturday, a month after ending his 10-year career at the Premiership champions.
The 37-year-old, 10-times capped Springbok hooker, enjoyed a winning finale with Saracens by helping them win the Premiership title at Twickenham on May 26 beating Exeter 27-10. Despite his excellent form last season, Brits insisted he was finished with professional rugby and has been accepted by Cambridge University to do a Masters degree along with a job at Reinet, the company owned by former Sarries shareholder Johann Rupert, the South African businessman.
Now, Brits is facing a dilemma with Rassie Erasmus, the Springbok coach, offering the hooker the carrot of being part of the squad at next year’s Rugby World Cup in Japan, reprising the role he had at the 2015 tournament in England. Erasmus has a group of young hookers in his squad but believes Brits could offer both experience and the stardust that made him such a fan favourite in England.
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However, if Erasmus does want Brits to come out of retirement full-time, finding a club for the hooker could be a problem, particularly in England where the majority of teams will have sorted out their squads under the salary cap restrictions. It is understood that Brits has some options in England, but would find it tough to join one of Sarries rivals, making France a likely alternative.
Wray is one of Brits’ biggest fans but told RugbyPass that the club’s expenditure on their squad for next season is already completed. He said: “It would be almost impossible because we have signed players and what can you do? It must be the same for a lot of other clubs. With the hookers we have in the squad – Jamie George, Christopher Tolofua and Scott Spurling- what do you say to them? It sends out a dreadful message.”
“No one ever thought this would occur and it is fantastic for Schalk because he is great guy. It is a nice dilemma for Schalk to have and it is wonderful to see him back with South Africa and it will come down to what Erasmus says to him.”
As far as Erasmus is concerned there are only positives to be gained by having Brits back in the match squad at the Newlands Stadium where he made his debut for the Springboks against Italy in 2008. Erasmus said: “Schalk is the type of guy who could play until he is 38 and one more season wouldn’t be impossible. But we will have to take stock after this series and make a decision.
“If we need to call his number for the World Cup we would want to be able to do that. He does have to keep playing rugby somewhere though. If he stops playing rugby then it wouldn’t work, but if he keeps playing we are allowed to pick anyone playing anywhere. But this is all in the future. We will see about his future after this Saturday.
“The European experience he has‚ and his overall experience‚ has helped younger hookers such as Akker (van der Merwe). And if this weekend is the last‚ then Schalk’s purpose with us has still been fulfilled.”
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