Cape Town - 2019 World Cup-winning Springbok hooker Schalk Brits believes the future of South African rugby lies in Europe.
The 38-year-old, speaking as an ambassador for Laureus ahead of next month's Laureus World Sports Awards in Berlin, is now fully retired from the professional game but he will be watching this year's Super Rugby with interest having represented the Bulls last season.
The tournament is under pressure again this year with crowd numbers having been in a steady state of decline in recent years, while it has received another blow from a South African perspective with several Springboks having now left their local franchises for more lucrative European moves.
For Brits, who left South Africa and the Stormers in 2009 to pursue a career in the English Premiership with Saracens, a move to European competition would be a positive for the South African franchises.
"For me, when I left South Africa in 2009 I think we had an average attendance of around 40 000 people at Newlands every week," Brits said.
"Coming back, I was quite shocked with the lack of support.
"I've been saying this for quite a while, but for me people want to watch the best players play rugby and unfortunately it isn't great when you have your best players playing abroad.
"Going forward I foresee the game moving to the northern hemisphere.
"All of this jet lag and flying across different time zones just doesn't work. For me it just makes sense to go north.
"From a rugby community point of view, we've already got so many players playing in Europe and it would be awesome to see South African players playing against each other in a European competition."
For now, at least, Super Rugby is here to stay and Brits acknowledged that he would be torn when it came to picking between the Stormers and Bulls.
"Definitely this year my heart lies with the Bulls, but I've got a soft spot for the Stormers," he said.
"Hopefully they they both do well and play each other in the final, but I don't know who I would support in the final."
The 2020 competition gets underway on January 31.
- Compiled by Lloyd Burnard