Brüssow ‘U-turn’ to be lauded

Heinrich Brussow (Gallo Images)
Heinrich Brussow (Gallo Images)

Cape Town – Just how “anti” was Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer to Heinrich Brüssow, really?

Much fuss has been made up to now, in Meyer’s almost two-year tenure in the role, about the non-presence of the little Cheetahs open-side dynamo in his plans.

All we know with some certainty is that Meyer unapologetically favours height and bulk among his loose forwards because he loves a remorseless pack of powerful, collective ball-carriers.

Much less clear-cut is whether any semblance of animosity ever existed between the two.

Whatever the truth on that score – sometimes it is all too easy to suggest “grudge” just because a particular player is consistently overlooked -- Meyer has shown commendable open-mindedness by making room for him in a Bok training squad announced on Monday.

“I am looking forward to working with Heinrich for the first time; he has been in great form for the Cheetahs,” Meyer aptly said in his sound-bites that accompanied the press release.

The party is 36-strong and overlooks at this stage the vast majority of overseas-based Boks, so not too much can be read into a great many of the picks.

But just recognising the low-centre-of-gravity tearaway’s Super Rugby form, since his belated infusion to the 2014 competition after long-term injury, is a pleasing and logical development.

Brüssow was inspirational once more for the embattled Free Staters in their upset triumph over the high-riding Brumbies in Bloemfontein on Saturday, not only being a routine menace at the breakdown but also continuing his trend of high-level involvement in linking and carrying.

The entire Cheetahs loose trio of Brüssow, Boom Prinsloo and Oupa Mohoje were rampant against the Aussie visitors, and the last-named player, whose lineout work has been particularly eye-catching, joins Brüssow in the Bok group.

Still only 27, Brüssow last played for the national side in 2011, during Peter de Villiers’s ever-colourful coaching rein.

There is plenty of the proverbial gas left in his tank, as evidenced by his striking stamina and intense work-rate in recent outings.

Amidst an eternally strong cupboard of loose forwards as a whole, it is probably a tall order for Brüssow to quickly recapture a starting berth or even match-day squad place.

Bath-based Francois Louw is the open-side incumbent and a classy one at that, whose leadership credentials have been noted by Meyer; he is among players down the line to be premier candidates for the Test captaincy once the 33-year-old incumbent Jean de Villiers calls it a day.

But Brüssow has unquestionably begun “bubbling under” once more through pure weight of personal performance.

I can think of a potentially forceful additional reason for Meyer issuing an olive branch of sorts, if you like, to the diminutive scavenger ... the All Blacks.

Achieving the scalp of the arch-rival and No 1-ranked New Zealanders has been one elusive box to tick for the coach in an otherwise impressive record in charge of the Boks, and Brüssow is among increasingly few internationals locally who can claim to have been part of a welcome little period in which South Africa genuinely had their measure.

That was in 2009, when the Boks won the former Tri-Nations and knocked over the All Blacks all three times in doing so (since then the New Zealanders have won eight of nine further bilateral clashes).

The back-to-back triumphs on domestic soil – 28-19 in Bloemfontein and 31-19 in Durban – saw particularly imperious, dominant Springbok efforts and the player right at the forefront each time was Brüssow, who flustered and flummoxed the opposition (yes, even the mighty Richie McCaw) to the point of rank demoralisation.

He may not have any kind of fresh grip on the No 6 jersey at this stage, but in the Land of the Long White Cloud you can bet there will be some people just a little twitchy that Heinrich Wilhelm Brüssow is at least back contending ...

*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing

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