Burger to complete miracle return

Date published: June 26 2014

A year after recovering from life-threatening bacterial meningitis, Schalk Burger will return to Test action with the Springboks.

A year after recovering from life-threatening bacterial meningitis, Schalk Burger will return to Test action with the Springboks.

The Stormers back-row star and former IRB Player of the Year returns to starting action in a Test match for South Africa on Saturday against Scotland in Port Elizabeth.

Reflecting on his illness and the injuries prior to that which kept him out for nearly two years, along with the strides made by current number seven Willem Alberts, Burger admitted that he had missed the honour of representing his country more than he had realised.

Burger on Saturday will pack down in the back-row alongside his Western Province team-mate Duane Vermeulen, for who he also had plenty of high praise.

“I was in a bit of strife then so being back here you enjoy every moment. Once the Springbok jersey has been taken away from you, you realise how much you've missed it,” said Burger.

“I've been fortunate enough to work my way back up here and I am enjoying every single moment.

“Obviously Willem has been immense for the Springboks in the number seven jersey but the nice thing about having a lot of depth at loose forward is the diversity and I'll bring something different.

“Duane has been the incumbent number eight and he seems to be going well at the moment. There is no gap there but any position where I get my opportunity, I will take my chances.

“At a certain stage of your career, you are quite bullish about the position that you want to play, and rightly so because you have high ambitions, but I will take any position that opens up.”

South Africa head coach Heyneke Meyer stated that having Burger back in action gave him a versatile weapon in the back-row, but that he wanted Burger to play like himself and not emulate the skill set of Alberts.

“The great thing about Schalk is he can play six, seven and eight. I still think eight is his best position going forward and Duane has been playing a lot of rugby there as well,” said Meyer.

“He is not a true ball carrier like Willem but he adds different things to the side — his last few games were awesome.

“He's got brilliant touches with the ball, almost like a fly-half distributing, so I don't want him to play like Willem, I want him to play like Schalk.”

Turning attention to the task at hand in Vern Cotter's Scotland side, Burger is aware of the public's expectations.

“Scotland is a tough side and when you play a Test in South Africa, similar to Wales, the public demands not only a victory but a comfortable one,” added Burger.

“Scotland have gone three out of three on their end-of-year tour and they are coming here off high expectations.

“We've had a few disruptions this week so we'll have to pull together and put up an improved performance from the one last week against Wales.”