Burger champing at the bit

Wed, 15 Jan 2014 19:49
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Springbok veteran Schalk Burger is spoiling to make his long awaited Super Rugby return for the Stormers after a two-year injury-enforced absence.

Springbok veteran Schalk Burger is keen to make his long awaited Super Rugby return for the Stormers after a two-year injury-enforced absence.

The decorated loose forward finally returned to action in the final quarter of Western Province’s Currie Cup encounter against the Free State Cheetahs last September following a variety of different injuries and ailments.

Burger sustained a knee injury in the opening round of the 2012 Super Rugby season and suffered a calf injury upon his return to the paddock in a pre-season game last year.

His comeback was stymied further when he underwent surgery to remove a cyst that was pressing against his spinal cord last March, but complications saw him contract bacterial meningitis.

He spent six weeks in hospital and another eight weeks indoors before he finally returned to fitness. The 2004 IRB Player of the Year was eased back into action by Western Province and showed glimpses of the Burger of old in an impressive performance for the Barbarians against Fiji last December.

After making it through the Twickenham clash unscathed and being named vice-captain of the Stormers on Wednesday, Burger is counting down the days to his return to the Super Rugby stage.   

“It was really nice to get 80 minutes under the belt for the Barbarians, it helped my confidence immensely and it was really nice to get back and play on such a big stage,” the 68-Test veteran said on Wednesday.  

“After missing out on nearly two years of rugby, there’s a lot of desire and hopefully I can start playing good rugby again.  

“The mind is super keen and let’s hope the body holds up.”

Burger will serve as Jean de Villiers’ deputy, the Springbok skipper being entrusted with the captaincy of the Cape-based side.

De Villiers, though, said a core of experienced players would work as a leadership group within the team.

“It’s always a great honour to be selected as captain,” said De Villiers.

‘For us as a squad we’ve built a good senior group and I’ll rely a lot on them. I’ll be working closely with Schalk and the other senior players as ultimately, a captain is only as good as his seniors and fellow players."

De Villiers added that the squad had developed and learnt from their troublesome 2013 campaign.

“We’ve definitely matured as a squad and you can see that the guys are taking more responsibility in individual performances and making decisions on the field.”

The Stormers, who missed out on the play-offs and finished seventh last year, kick off their on-field preparations for the upcoming season with the first of three friendlies against the Bulls in Polokwane on Saturday, February 1.

They play the Southern Kings in Port Elizabeth on Friday, February 6 before their final warm-up fixture against Boland in Wellington on Saturday, February 15.

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Tue, 06 October 2015
Canada v Romania 15h45 Leicester
Fiji v Uruguay 19h00 Milton Keynes
Wed, 07 October 2015
South Africa v United States 15h45 London
Namibia v Georgia 19h00 Exeter
Fri, 09 October 2015
Pumas v Blue Bulls 16h00 Mbombela Stadium
Western Province v EP Kings 16h00 Newlands
New Zealand v Tonga 19h00 Newcastle
Sat, 10 October 2015
Free State Cheetahs v Sharks 12h00 Bloemfontein
Samoa v Scotland 13h30 Newcastle
Golden Lions v Griquas 14h00 Ellis Park
Australia v Wales 15h45 London
England v Uruguay 19h00 Manchester
Sun, 11 October 2015
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Italy v Romania 13h30 Exeter
France v Ireland 15h45 Cardiff
United States v Japan 19h00 Gloucester
Pool AU
Team P W D L Pts
Waratahs 16 11 0 5 52
Brumbies 16 9 0 7 47
Rebels 16 7 0 9 36
Reds 16 4 0 12 22
Force 16 3 0 13 19
Pool NZ
Team P W D L Pts
Hurricanes 16 14 0 2 66
Highlanders 16 11 0 5 53
Chiefs 16 10 0 6 48
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Pool SA
Team P W D L Pts
Stormers 16 10 1 5 45
Lions 16 9 1 6 42
Bulls 16 7 0 9 38
Sharks 16 7 0 9 34
Cheetahs 16 5 0 11 26