Schalk Burger’s last game at Newlands was not a memorable one. The team that he’s given 14 years of his life to were outplayed at his home ground.
Burger’s Stormers went down 60-21 to the Chiefs at Newlands on a freezing Cape Town winter night, in front of a half-capacity crowd.
This game in the context of Burger’s career is a drop in the ocean for the 123 Super Rugby Cap veteran. Burger started at Western Province in 2002 and has risen from a rookie loose-forward to being a World Cup winner and Stormers and Springbok legend. He will now join Saracens in England.
He made no effort to hide his disappointment in the post-match press conference, but insisted he was very hopeful about the future.
“Of course it hurts, but I think you’ve got to have perspective,” Burger explained.
“I think this team has come along way, we started off on a journey, we’re a young side and I think we did remarkably well to get into a quarter-final and unfortunately for us today it just didn’t work.
“Yes tonight is painful but I think I really enjoyed my journey with the current crop of players … they’re super talented.”
Chiefs coach Dave Rennie’s heart went out to the veteran loose forward after ruining Burger’s last hoorah.
“I think he’s been a fantastic servant of Western Province, obviously the Stormers and South African rugby,” said Rennie.
“He’s an absolute gentleman. I don’t know him really well but everytime we’ve played him he’s come over and shook my hand you know, congratulated us or commiserated with us.
“I think he’s been brilliant and obviously we feel a bit bad about the score-line tonight as he probably deserves better than that but you know he’s been a great player and we wish him the best.”
Burger naturally though is excited about the prospects of playing at the London-based Premiership club, who he has joined on a two-year contract.
“I have a couple of weeks off and obviously keen to get started at Saracens,” he said.
“I’ve spent a lot of time at Newlands and it’s been a phenomenal journey. It’s a new chapter in my life, there’s obviously a nice family culture over there.”
The 33-year-old put in one hell of a shift in his last game for his beloved Stormers. Even when most of his team-mates seemed to be losing their heads around him, Burger used his experience to try and calm things down and played with the exuberance and energy for which he has become famous.
He broke the line on two occasions using his brute force to bust through an otherwise impenetrable Chiefs defence. He’s given it all in his final season, putting his body in the firing line as he made 144 carries and 120 tackles.
His final game might not have been memorable but Burger has etched his name into the foundations of Newlands and will be a legend among the famous stadium’s faithful for many years to come.