To Brits, or not to Brits…?

Written by Morné Nortier (Morné)

Posted in :Original Content on 30 Jun 2011 at 18:09
Tagged with : , , , ,

A lot has been made in recent days on the inclusion of Saracens hooker, Schalk Brits, in the Stormers team for their semi-final clash against the Crusaders this weekend at Newlands.

It seems there are two issues people are debating here;

a)      Should the Stormers have considered Brits in the first place?

b)      Could this be a platform for Brits to make a case for himself for Bok selection (as a hooker)?

As different as the two issues are on the face of it, they both also tie in with one another.

Quite simply, the decision to include Brits on the bench as cover for loose-forward (or even backline player) was an absolute master stroke by the Stormers management, but to suggest that the Aviva Premiership Final’s Man-of-the-match should leapfrog some of South Africa’s Super 14 hookers for a place in the Rugby World Cup squad is totally absurd.

Dealing with the first issue in isolation, it was absolute genius to include Brits in the Stormers match-day 22 for this weekend’s semi-final match.  There are those who bemoan the lack of faith Stormers management are showing in their structures by not selecting the next guy in line to come in as cover for the injured Duane Vermeulen, but if you consider the Stormers are reportedly down to their 7th choice loose-forward with a semi-final coming up against the most successful Super Rugby team in history, the selection of Brits is not only clever, it’s bloody logical!

For individuals to claim that the Stormers are not investing in their youth or structures, I would like to point out the amount of youngsters that ran out for this team in the league stages of this tournament, some of whom are yet to play a senior Currie Cup game!

One also has to appreciate the magnitude of the situation and match coming up.  This is not a simple league game in which you can afford to blood a brilliant young, but ultimately inexperienced talent.  This is a semi-final of arguably the toughest provincial tournament in the world in which games in finals matches are won by the smallest of margins, or a single mistake by either team, from which there is no coming back next week to fix it!

Simply put, experience is key in these type of games, and in Brits they do not only get that, they get a player that has played for the Stormers a couple of years ago that knows the structures and the players involved, not to mention the intensity you find in Super Rugby which is a massive step up from the what the current number 7th or 8th choice loose-forward would have.

The genius of this move by Stormers management however does not come from picking a player with Super Rugby experience or knowing structures.  Yesterday, the very cool folks posted a highlights package of Brits in the Aviva Premiership Final Match where he was picked as the Man of the Match.  If you have not yet seen this clip, CLICK HERE.

If ever you questioned the logic of including Brits, a hooker by trade, as cover in a Super Rugby semi-final as a loose-forward (he is not allowed to substitute at hooker), this clip should answer that question emphatically!

Schalk Brits is a player with amazing skills and vision, and I do not think one person will ever argue that.  The first two moves in the Rugbydump package sees Schalk Brits covering in the last line of defense where your fullback or wings should be, where in one instance he kicks an up-and-under as-well as I have seen any backline player kick in history, and in the second, again covering at the back he runs the ball back and although getting smashed in the tackle, he managed to off-load beautifully to a supporting player putting his team on the front foot yet again.

In fact, this highlights package is littered with examples displaying the vision and skills of Schalk Brits, the rugby player.

And this brings me to the second issue at hand; ‘Should Brits leapfrog hookers like Chiliboy, Adriaan Strauss, or any other Super 14 hooker and be included in the Rugby World Cup squad as a hooker?’

My simple answer to that was ‘No’, and then that is where things got complicated, because why do I believe a Strauss, or a Chili or even Bismarck are better ‘hookers’ than Brits?

Without getting too technical on the issue or having to resort to ‘statistics’ which is subjective at best when comparing players, my arguments lies within the type of game employed by most South African teams, and the Springboks, and the capacity or role Brits is used at Saracens.

It is quite simply impossible to do a head-to-head comparison between Brits as a HOOKER, against Strauss, Bismarck or Chili, because show me one South African team or coach that would use their hooker in the last line of defense, as far away from every ruck as possible, as the highlights package from Rugbydump showed Brits being used.

Those who supports Brits’ inclusion will no doubt highlight the player’s running meters, tries scored, line-breaks, play-maker passes etc.  Those against it will ask how many ruck cleans he does, what is his defensive statistics around the fringes are or how many times he crosses the advantage line close in (rather than with 30 meters of space to work with) because those, quite simply, is how hookers in South Africa are being employed.

The argument should therefore not center around who is the better hooker, the question should be what type of hooker is best suited for the type of game we will be looking to play and then from there, which candidate(s) brings the most to the table based on that.

Schalk Brits and Bismarck du Plessis (or any other South African hooker) play completely different games, and is used in completely different capacities which means their individual strengths are also, completely different.

In other words, if you ask Brits to adapt his game and use him in a role the Sharks and Springboks use Bismarck, he will not nearly be as effective, it is simply not his strength as a player.  Similarly, if Saracens had to ask Bismarck to cover the last line of defense and improve his kicking game, off-loads, speed off the mark (etc.) Brits will win that battle hands down!

In fact, the reason I believe the Stormers decision to include Brits in their match-day 22 is a masterstroke, is not because of his brilliance as a hooker, it is because of his brilliance as a ball player and the destruction he can cause in the final 20 or 30 minutes given his skill and vision as is clearly evident in the video evidence above.

So is he a better ‘hooker’ than Bismarck, Strauss or Chili?  I don’t think so, not for the type of game we play.  Is he a better ball player than any of them, or even any other forward (and some backline players) whether it being tight 5 or loosies?  Of that there can be no doubt.  So unless the Springbok coaching staff is looking for a multi-skilled impact player they can use from the bench in this World Cup, I am afraid you won’t be hearing the name of Schalk Brits being called out when the final squad is announced.


  • Just hope brits doesn’t get smashed to bits ..

  • Comment 1, posted at 30.06.11 18:55:52 by bergshark Reply
  • Schalk Brits has some unbelievable skills,no doubting that,so hoping he can come on and work the magic in the last half_hour or 20 mins -or whenever he gets on the field.

  • Comment 2, posted at 30.06.11 18:57:53 by bergshark Reply
  • brilliant synopsis…..echoes my sentiments…..really good Morne.

  • Comment 3, posted at 30.06.11 19:16:06 by grant10 Reply
  • Amen Morne! I agree 100%. 😉

  • Comment 4, posted at 30.06.11 19:48:33 by wpw Reply
  • Paging KSA to this thread :mrgreen:. Let the games begin!

  • Comment 5, posted at 30.06.11 19:59:30 by vanmartin Reply
    Friend of Sharksworld Author
  • Smiley is going to make the best of this opportunity guaranteed…I hope EP or the lions or even the sharks gets him back, 28 still has 5 years of goods in him and he is a great team member…I have heard roomers about the blue bulls looking to lure Smiley. On a new front New Zealand rugby has committed to retaining a system of salary caps even after warnings from players and unions to lift the cap and keep there players. South Africa is the next logicle checkbook for players looking to stay in super rugby and international contention. Is this worrying??? Fore sure players are going to make there way to RSA, and regarding international contention we may be robbing our youngsters from developing spots, what may happen is our youngsters looking to new zealand for exposure in future, whatever the outcome…the super rugby era is moving very fast to a system where the 3 continents are getting very close to the European setup, is this good or bad for Southern hemos Ragga?

  • Comment 6, posted at 30.06.11 20:26:42 by BoerSeun Reply

  • vanmartin
    Ignore KSA Shark, he seems to have run out of candarel or somefing! 😈

  • Comment 7, posted at 30.06.11 20:39:41 by wpw Reply
  • @wpw (Comment 7) : Not possible I’m afraid as I happen to agree with him on a lot of other subjects, especially regarding that team wearing the Black and White 😀

  • Comment 8, posted at 30.06.11 21:05:46 by vanmartin Reply
    Friend of Sharksworld Author
  • @Boer Seun:bulls interested in brits?be interesting to see him in the blue bulls jersey.

  • Comment 9, posted at 30.06.11 22:02:25 by bergshark Reply

  • When is his contract up at saracens?..could be the game-breaker the sharks need..and here we are all looking at the centres lol but it would be tough on someone like craig burden and/or kyle cooper.maybe he should join the sharks as a loosie- but there are a few talented youngsters in the junior ranks.but schalk brits has serious ball skills,no doubting that..!

  • Comment 10, posted at 30.06.11 22:05:45 by bergshark Reply

  • And schalk brits was born in empangeni,so it would very well be the case of a local lad returning to the province of his birth(though I think his dad might’ve been lecturing at uni of zululand ,and actually from the wc).

  • Comment 11, posted at 30.06.11 22:09:16 by bergshark Reply

  • @bergshark (Comment 10) : Now you are seriously clutching imo.

  • Comment 12, posted at 30.06.11 22:09:57 by Ben Reply
    Friend of Sharksworld Author
  • @Ben: haha yes I am,I guess 😀

  • Comment 13, posted at 30.06.11 22:13:16 by bergshark Reply

  • Britzie does have skills aplenty though .

  • Comment 14, posted at 30.06.11 22:14:27 by bergshark Reply

  • @bergshark (Comment 1) : All Blacks and former Hurricanes midfielder Ma’a Nonu has signed with the Blues after committing to New Zealand rugby for two more seasons.

    Nonu, 29, today confirmed speculation he would be moving north after being axed by the Hurricanes for being a disruptive element in the view of coach Mark Hammett.

    The blockbusting second five-eighth will also take a playing ‘sabbatical’ from New Zealand rugby at the end of this year, joining the Ricoh Black Rams in Japan’s Top League competition for several months before returning to New Zealand for next year’s Super Rugby competition.

    This follows a similar move by All Blacks first five-eighth Dan Carter at French club Perpignan in 2008-09.

    Nonu was delighted to be leaving offshore after receiving a wealth of offers to leave.

    “I’m happy that I’m continuing my career in New Zealand and would like to thank the Blues for giving me the opportunity to join them,” he said in a statement.

    “I was flattered and grateful to receive offers to play for other teams as well but the Blues was the best option for me and my family and I’m really looking forward to joining them next year.” 

    NZRU chief executive Steve Tew welcomed 29-year-old Nonu’s decision to stay in New Zealand.

    “Ma’a is an outstanding, world-class player who has been committed to New Zealand rugby for the best part of a decade, and for him to commit further is fantastic news.

    “We have said that we will look to be flexible when it comes to re-contracting our leading players and we think giving him the chance to play in Japan is another example of that flexibility.

    “With the rugby season finishing earlier than normal this year we were happy to provide Ma’a with a one-off opportunity to have a Japanese rugby experience without overly compromising his commitment to the Blues.”

    Blues Coach Pat Lam said: “It’s no secret there was a lot of interest in securing Ma’a by teams both locally and around the world. He is a quality player so it’s great news for the Blues that he has chosen our team in which to continue his impressive rugby career.”

    Nonu has played 56 tests and 110 Super Rugby matches for the Hurricanes since his Wellington provincial debut in 2002.

    He has gained a reputation as a supreme linebreaker and has been a key part of the All Blacks since controversially missing selection for the 2007 World Cup.

    Nonu joins a growing group of current and recent All Blacks who have recommitted to New Zealand rugby after this year’s World Cup, including captain Richie McCaw and playmaker Daniel Carter, hookers Keven Mealamu, Corey Flynn and Hikawera Elliot, props Tony Woodcock, Ben Franks and Wyatt Crockett, locks Ali Williams, Anthony Boric, Tom Donnelly and Sam Whitelock, loose forwards Jerome Kaino, Kieran Read, Daniel Braid, Liam Messam and Victor Vito, and backs Jimmy Cowan, Alby Mathewson, Colin Slade, Conrad Smith, Benson Stanley, Ben Smith, Israel Dagg and Aaron Cruden

  • Comment 15, posted at 30.06.11 22:43:51 by BoerSeun Reply

  • @bergshark (Comment 9) : The Bulls are probably the SA union most in need of another hooker.

    Lots of ambiguity in that sentence… 😆

  • Comment 16, posted at 30.06.11 22:46:41 by vanmartin Reply
    Friend of Sharksworld Author
  • @BoerSeun (Comment 15) : That’s a relief, don’t think he’s the right fit for the Sharks.

  • Comment 17, posted at 30.06.11 22:48:30 by vanmartin Reply
    Friend of Sharksworld Author
  • @Boer Seun:110 superrugby caps and only 29 years old..!

  • Comment 18, posted at 30.06.11 22:48:51 by bergshark Reply

  • @vanmartin: my sentiment exactly.wouldve been nice to get his playing ability at the sharks,but seems as if he brings some “extras”.but then again,I’m canvassing for the return of frans steyn to the sharks lol and seems as if there plenty rumours when it comes to why frans steyn left.but I’d sign him in an instant.

  • Comment 19, posted at 30.06.11 22:51:28 by bergshark Reply

  • @bergshark (Comment 19) : I’m with you on Frans Steyn, would prefer him ahead of Nonu. Time to come back home mopkop! 🙂

  • Comment 20, posted at 30.06.11 22:53:54 by vanmartin Reply
    Friend of Sharksworld Author
  • @[email protected] Seun: I’m calling it a night.sleep well .

  • Comment 21, posted at 30.06.11 22:54:42 by bergshark Reply

  • @vanmartin:comment20:glad to hear that!now if only mopkop would do that 😀 🙂

  • Comment 22, posted at 30.06.11 22:56:24 by bergshark Reply

  • @vanmartin:headline on news24 reads”blackadder spiiting venom over britz”.he is questioning the ethics of the stormers.seems they not so nice after all 🙁

  • Comment 23, posted at 30.06.11 23:12:21 by bergshark Reply

  • I really don’t care about this and am wondering why we are not rather spending time debating what is needed to take the Sharks to the next level. We can’t even make the semi’s of SupeRugby! We used to be leaders in the market and are now reduced to being followers. The Bulls realize the demands of SupeRugby and have taken bold decisions, Stormers also made decions which are now yielding returns. Where are we going and what is going to be announce tomorrow? I have always said that Plum and RS are not a good combination. We need a director of rugby that’s going to give us direction and a quality backline coach.

  • Comment 24, posted at 01.07.11 00:26:59 by GreatSharksays Reply

  • Agree.something is wrong in the back room.

  • Comment 25, posted at 01.07.11 00:31:49 by bergshark Reply

  • Brendan Venter for DoR?

  • Comment 26, posted at 01.07.11 00:32:46 by bergshark Reply

  • Wouldve loved to have had george gregan come on-board as backline coach.imagine the sharks playing with the bag-o-tricks of the brumbies in the gregan&larkham heydays

  • Comment 27, posted at 01.07.11 00:38:40 by bergshark Reply

  • @bergshark (Comment 27) : How about Eddie Jones then?

  • Comment 28, posted at 01.07.11 00:40:40 by Ben Reply
    Friend of Sharksworld Author
  • Where is eddie jones? Japan?would he though?

  • Comment 29, posted at 01.07.11 00:43:23 by bergshark Reply

  • @Ben:but now we both clutching at straws lol no way anything is going to change at HQ

  • Comment 30, posted at 01.07.11 00:45:01 by bergshark Reply

  • @bergshark (Comment 29) : Would he?? That’s never stopped you from going all excited and exclaiming we should sign someone. 😆

  • Comment 31, posted at 01.07.11 00:45:54 by Ben Reply
    Friend of Sharksworld Author
  • @bergshark (Comment 30) : I’m not clutching. Just couldn’t resist the temptation of giving you a straw to clutch at! 🙂 😉

  • Comment 32, posted at 01.07.11 00:47:54 by Ben Reply
    Friend of Sharksworld Author
  • @Ben: 😀

  • Comment 33, posted at 01.07.11 00:49:58 by bergshark Reply

  • @Ben:good night.I’m off to bed now.

  • Comment 34, posted at 01.07.11 00:54:30 by bergshark Reply

  • @bergshark (Comment 34) : You know the Ben on this thread and the Ben on the other thread is the person right? 😆

  • Comment 35, posted at 01.07.11 00:58:58 by Ben Reply
    Friend of Sharksworld Author
  • @Ben:(shock) lol

  • Comment 36, posted at 01.07.11 12:22:04 by bergshark Reply

  • Morne your reasoning is slightly obscured. I quote Brenden Venter when I say that while Brits is used as the last line of defence, to hoist up-and-unders and all the flashy stuff, he gets through a good amount of work at the rucks as well. His defence is also rock solid according to Venter.

    I do agree though that he shouldn’t be included in the Bok World Cup squad but my reasoning is different. Adriaan Strauss, Chiliboy Ralepelle, John Smit and Bismark Du Plessis have all loyally plied their trade over here in SA and now just because Brits plays one or two games for the Stormers does not mean he can suddenly slip into the World Cup squad, especially since we already have excellent hookers here in South Africa.

  • Comment 37, posted at 01.07.11 16:50:42 by The Sharks Sharkie Reply
    The Sharks Sharkie
  • @The Sharks Sharkie (Comment 37) :

    With all due respect, don’t give me a coach’s comments on players he will always talk up.

    Give me stats, and let’s compare that to the SA blokes.

  • Comment 38, posted at 01.07.11 18:02:53 by Morné Reply
  • @Morné (Comment 38) : I don’t look at the stats much, but I’m pretty sure they are there. Anyways either way you and me both agree, but for different reasons! 😀

  • Comment 39, posted at 01.07.11 19:16:04 by The Sharks Sharkie Reply
    The Sharks Sharkie
  • @The Sharks Sharkie (Comment 39) :

    I actually tried to look for them, stats for SA players easy, stats for the boys in mud-isle, not so easy! 😉

  • Comment 40, posted at 01.07.11 21:44:43 by Morné Reply
  • Okay so by this logic kanko should be used as a wing?
    One question always pops up with players like these…”how good are their basics?”; even when you compare bismarc to john smit, in certain games I would choose Smit as his basics IMO are better.

    SBW has been put at flank and I think he would fail at the position becuase like anything else it is a matter of learning the trade. You wouldnt use a ferrari to do a jeeps job even though they have the same engine power. However flank and hooker have become more similar nowadays

  • Comment 41, posted at 01.07.11 22:07:42 by Talent Reply
  • @Morné (Comment 40) : 😆 😆 😆

  • Comment 42, posted at 02.07.11 10:07:03 by The Sharks Sharkie Reply
    The Sharks Sharkie

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