Cape Town – He played all 100 punishing minutes of the English Premiership rugby final last weekend, but livewire hooker Schalk Brits looks as though he will be in the Springbok match-day frame for this Saturday’s match against a World XV at Newlands.
The global combination, coached by Nick Mallett, will field an array of game-breakers, in keeping with the tradition of fixtures of this kind, and although the Boks are likely to start with juggernaut first-choice Bismarck du Plessis in the No 2 jersey, Brits’s own dynamic brand of rugby might well come in extremely useful off the bench at some stage in the second half.
Sharks captain Du Plessis, after all, is among several Boks from the pace-setting franchise to have carried a heavy Super Rugby load in recent weeks, including the ever-demanding four-match overseas leg and then shock reverse to a weakened Stormers side in a Durban derby on Saturday.
Given that Mallett will probably ring plenty of changes himself during the course of the friendly fixture, Heyneke Meyer ought to follow suit in a pretty significant way, as Wales loom large for a two-Test series immediately afterwards and certain of his charges have been overplayed of late.
Bok team doctor Craig Roberts confirmed at a press briefing on Monday evening that Saracens stalwart Brits had come through the marathon Premiership final against Northampton – who snatched it right at the end of extra time – largely unscathed.
“Usual bumps and bruises after the weekend’s matches, but nothing too major,” Roberts said following the first Bok training session.
“Most of the overseas-based guys came in as well and they’re fine ... Schalk is just a bit stiff and sore after playing all 100 minutes of rugby (at Twickenham), but we’re happy with all of them at the moment.”
Brits gave another full-blooded, typically energetic performance in a match Sarries looked for all money to have clinched until the last-gasp try setback beneath their posts.
With new cap Callie Visagie of the Bulls the only other hooker in the present squad, the London-based former Lions and Stormers man, 33, seems an obvious choice as back-up hooker on Saturday.
Brits has earned five caps for the Boks, starting in 2008; his last appearance was as a substitute against England in November 2012 when South Africa squeezed home 16-15.
Roberts confirmed that utility back Frans Steyn had a “chronic problem” in his right knee, where some cartilage was missing, and he was being carefully managed, as had been the case in the Sharks camp of late.
“Every now and then if he does too much, especially kicking, the knee swells up. So it’s about managing his load which really means controlling the volume (of work) he does at training.
“So he can play 80 minutes, as long as his load during the week is managed ... but he is available (for Saturday).”
Whether Steyn actually plays, or just how much time on the park he will get in that event, remains to be seen – the Bok team, also yet to have a confirmed acting captain at the time of writing, is announced on Wednesday.
Roberts also indicated that another seasoned Bok, loose forward Schalk Burger, should be eligible for consideration.
“We’ve been monitoring Schalk (who has a neck injury) and he has been improving slowly; it’s a joint irritation and it takes some time but he is a lot better today than he was last week.
“It’s a day-by-day thing ... we kept him out of the contact part of training today but I think he’ll settle down nicely and should be fine for the weekend.”
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