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Schalk Brits won't be talked out of retirement despite stellar display

Saracens boss Mark McCall compared Schalk Brits to Peter Pan following his exceptional showing at Twickenham. Paul Harding/PA Images via Getty Images

Schalk Brits was always going to play at Twickenham this season but at one stage it looked like it would be in December's Varsity Game rather than the black of Saracens.

But a change of heart meant he would play one final season and despite his outstanding showing in Saturday's win over Northampton, he will not change his mind on finishing his professional career at the end of this campaign.

Brits was sublime for Saracens, and belied his 36 years with a performance of gainline-breaking brilliance and set piece security as they hammered the Saints 55-24 at Twickenham. It was the sort of showing which makes his decision to retire all the more difficult to stomach; there's clearly life left in those hot-stepping feet.

Even Dylan Hartley, the England captain and Brits' opposite number at Northampton, said wishfully, "We're all different aren't we? I wish I could do some of that stuff." But this will be Brits' final season.

On Saturday, about three hours before kick-off at a baking Twickenham, Brits posted a message on his Twitter account confirming his decision. Savour him while you can.

There were times last term when Brits considered hanging up his boots early. "I spoke to Cambridge and Oxford to do an MBA that was the plan to stop playing rugby, play one year of varsity rugby and get an unbelievable experience," Brits said, but then came the dissuading voices.

Mark McCall had a word with the man he labels the 'Peter Pan' of rugby, and the void left by the retiring Jim Hamilton, Neil de Kock, Jacques Burger and Alastair Hargreaves and the departed Petrus du Plessis persuaded him to carry on for a further campaign.

"There was always an inkling to play another one, from a cultural point of view we have lost some big individuals so I have decided to do one more," he said. His focus this season will be to mentor the next generation of Saracens players.

"I am 36 and it is time to say goodbye to this lovely game but there is still a season and my role is to play as best as I can and to help the other guys as well. With [fellow hookers] JG [Jamie George], Christopher [Tolofua] and Scotty [Spurling] there my role has changed a little bit."

If Saturday's performance is anything to go by then folk may try and persuade Brits to try and eek out another season. But he is resolute: "This will definitely be my last season."

His face, with a seeping scar above his eye, told the story of a difficult summer which took in three operations on an orbital fracture, his knee and eye. His mother saw his broken nose and just said, "buddy, you need to stop."

So despite Saturday's evidence to the contrary, Brits clearly feels Old Father Time has caught up with him and he will move on to another opportunity next year. It's time for the next generation to try and fill the void. But there's still plenty of life in him, and he is hoping to finish this season on a high.

"It has never been about the titles. It has always been about making memories with friends," Brits said. "A lot of people look at the end result and they determine their success by that.

"We determine it by progress and the amount of memories we have made and that is quite a different way of looking at it. That is what makes it quite different to the previous rugby organisations I have been involved with.

"But it is time to sit back and have a beer and enjoy watching it and not just get bashed up."