Burger relishing new chapter in England
IN THE SPOTLIGHT: Springbok flank Schalk Burger says he is relishing a new challenge at Saracens after joining the English club's pre-season training earlier this week.
The World Cup winner has moved to north London to join the reigning Premiership champions after a 14-year career with Western Province and the Stormers in Cape Town.
Burger is one of five new recruits to Mark McCall’s double-winning side.
He has captained South Africa during his stellar 12-year international career and is a former World Player of the Year.
The 33-year-old has won 86 caps for the Springboks and holds the record for the most tries (14) for a back row forward.
"My international career was coming to an end and I thought that Saracens was a great place to go," Burger said.
"With the South African influence here and the group of English talent that runs throughout the organisation, the whole culture of the club is a good fit for me and my family.
"You can get to a certain stage in your career where you want to change things a bit, so for the last two years with the Stormers, I had a dual contract with them and Suntory in Japan, so the next step for me was that I needed to challenge myself again.
"Moving to England is super exciting and it is something that I've always wanted to do. I'm settling in as quickly as possible, and it'll probably be a few more weeks until I'm completely settled. It's still a bit helter-skelter, I haven't moved into my new home yet and my family is still back in South Africa but it's been great to come into Saracens and start the process of settling in. I'm learning all the time, how Saracens want to play rugby and how they do things off the pitch."
Burger brings a wealth of experience to the Saracens' squad and reveals he is looking forward to playing alongside Saracens' home grown talent who have been at the heart of England's recent success under former Saracens head coach Eddie Jones.
"Funnily enough, I recognised quite a number of faces when I arrived," said Burger.
"There are quite a few guys who I've played with during my time with the Stormers over a decade ago, and I'd never thought I'd play rugby with them again so it's been great to catch up with them.
"Mikey [Michael] Rhodes came over last year, Brad Barritt I used to play against when he was based in Durban for The Sharks as did Alistair Hargreaves.
"Then there's all of the English players and we’ve been watching how well they have been doing recently, especially with Eddie [Jones] in charge, so I know a good number of them but obviously there’s still a few more guys I need to get to know."
On his move to Allianz Park, Burger added: "Saracens is where I wanted to come. I just want to come here and enjoy my rugby, that's the main thing and I have to keep it that way. My main aim is not to get ahead of myself, and concentrate on my own game within the Saracens' structures and be influential. You have to focus on yourself and try to adapt to how the team plays, find your niche in that team and play well. It's also well documented that I'm good in the pub, so when the time is right I'll hope to add value there too."