Saracens hooker Schalk Brits may have enjoyed a 12-year career right at the very top of his profession but the bustling hooker admits he still has the same enthusiasm and energy as when he first started playing rugby aged just seven.
Playing for Saracens is Brits' full-time job but the South African revealed he has the same approach and mentality to every game as when he was an enthusiastic amateur back in his native home.
Being paid to play a sport you love is a privilege, Brits acknowledges that, but as the Saracen prepares to welcome a new generation of rugby fans to North London this season; he wouldn't change a single thing.
"I play this game because I love it," he said. "From the first moment I started running around and getting tackled – I knew it was for me. You compete so hard on the pitch but after the game you're mates again and that's why I love it."
"The first memories I have of playing rugby was when I was seven back in South Africa, playing the game with no shoes on. It was seven in the morning, there was ice all over the pitch and I remember nearly crying. After the first kick-off though, I remember getting warmed up and then off you go."
"After I finished all of my studies, I suddenly thought to myself I will give rugby a shot but I will always see the sport as having fun, having good mates and always having a laugh."
Brits’ interview was part of a new campaign from Premiership Rugby and Aviva to welcome new supporters to Aviva Premiership Rugby this season.
Brits is one of 12 club ambassadors – including Chris Robshaw, Danny Cipriani, James Haskell, Ryan Lamb and Courtney Lawes – who are backing the ‘Aviva Premiership Rugby First Timers’ campaign.
As part of the campaign Aviva and the Premiership Rugby clubs have teamed up to give away almost 2,000 free tickets across every game in the first seven rounds of Aviva Premiership Rugby matches, from the start of the season right up to Christmas.
With rugby in England in the spotlight like never before, these tickets can only be claimed by supporters who have never been to an Aviva Premiership Rugby match.
Games available include the opening round clashes – Harlequins v Wasps, Worcester Warriors v Northampton Saints, Newcastle Falcons v Gloucester Rugby, Bath Rugby v Exeter Chiefs, Saracens v Sale Sharks and London Irish v Leicester Tigers.
Brits, 34, arrived in England in 2009 and has since gone on to enjoy a stellar career with Saracens, playing over 140 games for the club.
The South African has been involved in big European and domestic nights for Saracens but he still remembers his first taste of Aviva Premiership Rugby.
"My Aviva Premiership Rugby debut was against London Irish at Twickenham and it was one of the most physical games I have ever played in – even to this day I remember that," he added.
"I was yellow carded in that game and so I had to learn to control my temper but it was an unforgettable experience and most importantly we won."
The Aviva Premiership Rugby First Timers programme will give away almost 2,000 free tickets across every game in the first seven rounds of Aviva Premiership Rugby matches, from the start of the season right up to Christmas. Fans are encouraged to tell friends and family who have never been to a Saracens fixture before to visit www.premiershiprugby.com/avivafirsttimers now to sign up for their free tickets.