South Africa have sprung a surprise by calling up Schalk Brits for the remainder of their series against England – a fortnight after he had retired.
Brits attended the first Test in Johannesburg as a fan having played what was intended to be his final game of rugby when Saracens were crowned Aviva Premiership champions at Twickenham last month.
But with Springbok hookers Malcolm Marx and Bismarck du Plessis injured, the 37-year-old has agreed to join the squad in Bloemfontein and could be set to add to his 10 caps at Free State Stadium on Saturday.
“We’ll definitely consider him for the matchday 23 for the next two games. He’s not here just to be a ‘coach’,” said South Africa coach Rassie Erasmus, whose side won the opening Test 42-39.
“We are going to try some new things and we are going to encourage a new way of thinking. We want players to learn from guys like Schalk and his approach to the game.
“Schalk is in the same category as Bismarck in terms of experience. He knows a lot of English players well as he played against them regularly in the Premiership.
“We can only learn from him – specifically, at the scrums, lineouts and in terms of individual players.
“That made the decision to bring him back easier, but then you have to remember what a quality player he is.
“He won the Premiership with Saracens a couple of weeks ago, so he’s still on the ball.”
Brits is a popular figure in England where his dynamism and skill have lit up the Premiership, his lack of size for a modern hooker offset by his brilliance with the ball in hand.
His last Test appearance came three years ago, with his opportunities for the Springboks limited by the presence of John Smit and Du Plessis.
On Saturday he could come face to face with Saracens colleague Jamie George, the player he has helped mentor at Allianz Park, and Erasmus refuses to rule out his presence in the upcoming Rugby Championship campaign.
“After next week we will reassess. He played his last game a couple of weeks ago, so he’s still very fit. But we’ll see where he stands after the game in Cape Town,” added Erasmus.