Four years since he last faced the All Blacks, Springbok flanker Schalk Burger will once again be looking to make an impact when the two archrivals face off in Johannesburg on Saturday.
Burger’s short stint with his Japanese club was interrupted when he answered Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer’s call to join the squad for the home-leg matches against Australia and New Zealand.
“It is nice to be back playing for the Springboks, it was obviously a nice weekend being back in Cape Town,” said Burger.
“I got the call up and came back from Japan, I don’t think my wife was too pleased but I was on the first plane out of there.
“This week is obviously another great opportunity playing against the All Blacks, I haven’t played against them for a while.”
The 31-year-old made his return to the national side in June following two years out of the game with injury and serious illness.
The 2004 IRB player of the year featured in all four of the Springboks’ matches in June.
He joined Japanese club Suntory after this year’s Super Rugby and missed the first four rounds of the Rugby Championships.
Burger last faced the Kiwis in the 2010 Tri-Nations clash at FNB Stadium where he gave a man-of-the-match performance despite the Boks’ 29-22 defeat to the tourists.
He again played a leading role in South Africa’s 28-10 victory over the Wallabies in Cape Town over the weekend where he was influential off the bench.
With fiery number eight Duane Vermeulen in a race to recover from a rib cartilage injury, Burger could feature in the starting XV.
Burger said he hoped to make a difference in the green-and-gold, no matter the role he was assigned for the tough assignment.
“At the end of the day you are playing the number one side in the world and it is always a great challenge and as a South African youngster watching Test rugby you always watch the All Blacks versus the Springboks,” he said.
The industrious flanker said facing the All Blacks was always a special occasion.
“As a boy you always dream to play the All Blacks, I think it is about the challenge, you watch the haka and it is a challenge,” added Burger.
“The trick to the Boks is to not let down that challenge, it is a tough challenge we’ve got to put in hard work.”
With the pride of the top two ranked sides on the line, Burger said it was all or nothing.
“We’ve got a couple of victories over them, but let’s be honest, we are two nations with a lot of respect for each other, and the game doesn’t change,” he explained.
The Boks have not beaten the All Blacks since 2011 and Burger admitted that it was important for this crop of players to get the monkey off their backs.
“It is important to beat them, there are a few of us – which the media view as the previous generation – that have beaten them but it is one of those things in life where if you want something too much you never get it,” he said.