Why Schalk Brits has got nothing to prove to anyone
To prove that he is worthy has always been asked of Schalk Brits.
Those requests have fallen on deaf ears. His inspiration comes from a much different source.
The Bulls hooker played a starring role in the team’s 30-12 Super Rugby victory over the Lions at Ellis Park at the weekend.
It came as a timely reminder for a player‚ who was perhaps controversially‚ talked out of retirement to join the Bok group last year.
He didn’t see much action and wasn’t affiliated to a local team‚ which led to questions about the 37-year-old’s worth to the Bok cause.
He insists he’s got nothing to prove.
“Actually‚ I don’t want to show anything‚” he said after the Bulls’ win.
“For me it is always about having fun. Way back everyone always said I must prove to Jake (White‚ the former Bok coach) that I should be in the team.
"It is never about that. It is about having fun with my teammates. If you win you win‚ if you lose‚ you lose.”
Not that he is happy-go-lucky. Don’t be fooled by the teasing smile he directs at Father Time.
“It is about work ethic. You get up you work hard and enjoy it and have physicality. I love the physical part.
“When I go on tour and hold tackle bags for six weeks I actually miss being sore. After the first game against the Stormers I couldn’t get out of bed. My wife asked me ‘why do you do this to yourself?’”
Brits is one of rugby’s few remaining romantics. He started playing in the early years of the professional era‚ but you sense with him every pay check is a bonus.
“It’s about the fun part‚" he said.
"Even now I’m gonna have a beer with Marxie (Malcolm Marx). I want to bring the old school (values) and professionalism together. People can’t lose that essence. You fight hard on the pitch and afterwards you have fun.
“It has never been about proving to a coach or captain. It is about earning respect and having fun.”
He did that against the Lions and Bulls coach Pote Human is only too pleased his side has a team man like Brits.
“He was awesome. In the first game we took him off after 34 minutes. Then 50 and I tried to give him 80 but he didn’t last for 80 but maybe next week‚” said Human.
“I was very tired‚” admitted Brits.
“It was amazing being back at Ellis Park which is where I started my career. It was quite a tingle coming back here. Playing here is tough.”
Adjusting back to the pace of Super Rugby after carving his name into Saracens folklore‚ has taken some doing.
“Super Rugby is different to what we see in the northern hemisphere. Here it suits my type of game‚” reminded the fleet footed hooker.
“I had an injury to my calf at the start of the season. If it gets stiff there is the possibility of tearing it.
"Pote has managed me unbelievably well. I go as long as I can. Hopefully with a week’s break maybe it will recover properly and then I can push through to 80 minutes.
“I push as hard as I can and at the end I look in the mirror and if I didn’t push hard enough I have a word with myself.
"I just want to do as much as I can. Sometimes it goes well‚ sometimes it doesn’t. That is just the player I am.”
Brits’s raison d'être is very different from the average player.
“I don’t fear losing. I don’t fear failing. I fear not trying my best and I fear not being physical.
"Those are the two things I always try and bring. For a small hooker I have to front up. I enjoy the scrum part that I learnt a lot in the northern hemisphere. It is like chess.
“I want to earn respect from my coach and the players‚ even if I’m 45‚” SA Rugby’s Peter Pan said jokingly.