Bloemfontein - England scrum coach Neal Hatley has described Springbok mentor Rassie Erasmus’ decision to select veteran Schalk Brits to his squad for the remainder of the three match series as “a good move”.
Erasmus, ever one to think outside of the box, raised some eyebrows on Monday when he added Brits to his group for the remaining two matches of the series, which include the second Test in Bloemfontein this coming Saturday and the final game in Cape Town a week later.
Erasmus reasoned that the experienced former Lions, Stormers and Saracens player will rub off his knowledge on the other players in the squad and of course he could also be used as a dynamic and explosive impact sub later on in matches.
“It is a clever move and Rassie is very similar to Eddie (England coach Eddie Jones) in that vain,” said Hatley.
“He (Brits) knows a lot of the players who play for us from the league, so has intimate knowledge of their strengths and weaknesses. It is a good move. It makes sense to bring him in even though he has been a few weeks retired. He has great feet, is a great runner, has excellent ball skills. It is a good move, If you know Schalk you will know it is a good move and you will be pleased for him.”
Hatley, who although born in England learned his rugby first as a schoolboy in the Eastern Cape and then in Durban, where he played for the Natal under-20 team and also represented the senior team and the second string provincial side on occasion before moving to Cape Town, where he played for Villagers, also paid tribute to Bok prop Beast Mtawarira.
The big loosehead who came to Durban from Zimbabwe 13 years ago as a flank but was successfully retreaded into a front row forward by Dick Muir plays his 100th game for the Boks in Bloemfontein.
“Beast is phenomenal and has made a massive contribution to both the Sharks and the Springboks since arriving from Zimbabwe. He plays in a very attritional position so his survival and number of caps is testimony to how good he is. Playing 100 games is a special reason to celebrate but hopefully we won’t allow him too much of a celebration on Saturday.”
Hatley said he thought the Boks would be a lot better in Bloemfontein than they were at Ellis Park, where they scraped home 42-39 thanks to one of modern rugby’s most amazing comebacks.
“We fully expect South Africa to be a much better team this week as they have had an extra week together. We will be better too though. We’ve had a good training week, we’ve established where we went wrong last week, and we are working hard on putting right what we got wrong in Johannesburg.
“We scored close to 40 points and were obviously good on attack in Johannesburg so we need to work on the other areas.”
Hatley had experience of travelling with Natal teams to the highveld at a time when the then coach Ian McIntosh experimented a lot with his approach to games at altitude so he is well qualified to speak about whether Jones got it right or wrong when he elected to go to Johannesburg from the coast two days before the game.
“I remember when Ian McIntosh was the coach we sometimes went 10 days before, and we sometimes went two days before. We sometimes got the result when we were there two days before and not when we went a long time ahead of the game. I don’t think altitude was the problem. We finished the first test strongly. We dominated the first quarter and the last quarter and they dominated the others. We have confidence we are doing the right thing.”