Schalk Brits has admitted he came out of retirement to chase his World Cup dream and end his rugby career with no regrets.
Evergreen hooker Brits brought down the curtain on nine glittering years with Saracens in the summer, and with it his 11-cap South Africa stint.
But the 37-year-old has since been coaxed into making a big U-turn, and could now even take on England at Twickenham on Saturday.
Brits has delayed his plans to combine university study with a move into the business world to chase selection for next year’s World Cup in Japan, and thanked those who have helped make that possible.
“Firstly it was a short-term return; I thought my studies would start in September, then work in August, and June was one month off,” said Brits.
“I went on holiday with my wife to Ibiza anyway, we had chill-out time and that was a bit of a sabbatical so I thought, ‘why not join the Boks for three weeks?’
“Then the discussions followed and six months later we only have eight months left (until the World Cup).
“From a studying point of view to do it when I’m 37 or 38 there’s not much difference. The guy that’s offered me a job said, ‘what’s the difference between 37 and 38?’.
“He said, ‘you regret the things you don’t do’. And that’s certainly one of those things that fits.
“And with (South Africa boss) Rassie Erasmus’ blessing and the way he wants to try to keep me involved, it has made it quite an easy fit.
“There’s a big potential for this side, I think we’re growing at a rapid pace.
“When we started in June we didn’t have a lot of caps and I’m surprised how it’s gone.
“And I think we can improve even more from where we are now.”
Malcolm Marx is likely to start at hooker against England on Saturday, leaving Brits potentially battling it out for a seat on the bench.
The ever-likeable Brits moved quickly to lay high praise at Marx’s feet, warning England to expect a tough battle against the Lions’ gritty front-rower.
“Not only is he a great player he’s a great team guy, and he adds value on and off the pitch,” said Brits of Marx.
“Everybody can see what he does on the pitch, but off it he’s immensely important to how our team functions.
“Physically he’s gifted: a big, strong and quick bloke. But his strongest attribute is his mindset.
“He’s got a spirit of learning and growing, and if you can have that you can always improve as a player.
“He makes one of the highest amounts of turnovers in our team, so to have that kind of player making that amount of turnovers, that says something about his capability around the ruck.
“He’s given all teams from Super Level to international level a headache.
“I’ve always said from when I started playing rugby that your hooker can be your extra loose forward.
“If you’ve got a hooker on the blindside that can slow down the game and steal the ball, that’s tough to play against.
“Nobody wants to play with slow ball, it’s always quick ball, and that’s why I think the role of the hooker has changed in the last 15 years.”
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