Having made his own Super Rugby return last year, the Springbok asseses Carter's comeback
Schalk Brits on Dan Carter’s Super Rugby return
In late 2018, after a surprise call from Springboks boss Rassie Erasmus asking him to put in one more season ahead of the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan, veteran Schalk Brits came out of retirement and signed with the Bulls. At 37, the hooker began to write one last exciting chapter in the competition where he first made his name.
So as All Blacks legend Dan Carter returns to Super Rugby – albeit this time with the Auckland Blues and in a New Zealand-only format as rugby creeps back from the Covid-19 crisis – who better to ask what it’s like to land back in that competition than the free-wheeling forward?
“Going back to playing Super Rugby, there is quite an attraction to it,” Brits tells Rugby World. “You can play in unbelievable conditions, the pitches are great 99% of the time and it’s a running style of rugby. Sometimes in the northern hemisphere it can become a slog, like with two proper heavyweights. The physicality is still there (in New Zealand) but the ball’s being thrown round a bit more.”
Since he has come in as injury cover and he is coming from a very different competition in Japan, Brits does not expect Carter to play every minute through the Blues upcoming, truncated campaign. However, much like he and Duane Vermeulen did when joining the Bulls ahead of the 2019 Rugby World Cup, Brits believes seasoned pros can help guide inexperienced players.
The former Saracens stalwart explains: “Definitely with all his expertise, DC is an unbelievable person and secondly an unbelievable rugby… well, I won’t say nause but he knows everything. Probably not scrummaging but pretty much everything else!
“In the southern hemisphere – well, in South Africa I can definitely say – they don’t always value guys like that but you need guys with a lot of expertise, who can actually teach younger players to grow.
“I don’t want to put him on a pedestal, but DC is a very special rugby player! He’s coming form Japan, which is even faster. The physicality isn’t the same as the northern hemisphere or in Super rugby, but from a speed perspective it’s quicker. Stats-wise, in Japan the ball is in play a lot more. So his engine will be fine.
“It’s just getting used to contact and most tens don’t get in their faces. He’s always been so clever with managing contact, getting in the right positions and passing at the right time. He’s just a great baller.”
Throughout his career, Brits has put huge emphasis on “adding value”. It’s something that even in fits and starts, Carter can offer any organisation, he believes. As several observers have pointed out, for young players, like on-loan Harlequins centre Joe Marchant, it will be invaluable to learn at the feet of Carter and current All Blacks playmaker Beauden Barrett.
The real thrill for Brits, though, will be seeing respected men he has locked horns with still operating at the top end of the game, saying: “It’s nice seeing players I played against!”
He continues: “I can definitely say as a rugby lover, it would be nice to see DC pull on a shirt again, although it will be so weird seeing him in a blue shirt rather than a red shirt. In saying that, I think he’s always added value and he will add tremendous value to the Blues. Leon MacDonald (Blues coach) and him played together for years and MacDonald was a very clever player and by all accounts is a clever coach as well.
“I don’t think Dan will play 80 minutes every week. He’s there to add value and play every now and then. So from that perspective I’m very excited to see him play again.”
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