Rugby World Cup 2011

Burger: Adapt or die

2011-09-14 08:50
Schalk Burger (Gallo)

Wellington - Springboks flank Schalk Burger sees no discernible change of approach from referees to the breakdown at the Rugby World Cup, instead recognising only subtle differences between each official to which teams must "adapt or die."

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Burger says breakdown interpretations are clearer than they had been in the past and that the approach of referees is the same as it had been during this season's Super 15 and Tri-Nations.

Referees are giving more latitude to the attacking team but it's still possible for a well-drilled defence to force turnovers.

"Rugby's a pretty difficult game to predict what's going to happen on Saturday and you better adapt or die, I suppose. That's the way we see it," Burger said.

The 66-Test veteran, who is as laid back off the field as he is a rugged competitor in action, denies he feels any frustration despite the breakdown interpretations demanding a high level of accuracy from defensive players.

Flanks, particularly opensiders, have to contend with the arcane and often unfathomable laws that govern the breakdown and which confound lay observers. Referees bring their own approach to the tackled area in each match and it's the obligation, even burden, of players to cope with their demands.

"I think the breakdown now is a lot clearer than it was in the past," Burger said. "Every ref has got his own interpretation. You know the attacking side is getting away with more than the defensive side, but if you're good on the ground defensively you can turnover some ball.

"I think every ref's got his own style, so it all depends on how clear they want the tackler to roll away or show daylight. Every ref's different, you know, so you've just got to adapt and I think that's a key for all teams in this competition."

Burger said the Springboks' opening Pool D match against Wales, in which they squeezed a 17-16 win, showed how important and how difficult the breakdown battle will be at this World Cup. The 2007 World Cup champions have spent long hours working on their breakdown techniques to ensure their proficiency.

"It was obviously very competitive (against Wales)," he said. "Their loose trio was exceptional in that part, so it was tough for us. This weekend, obviously, we've got a different challenge in Fiji. Last weekend we found it pretty tough. It was pretty disruptive and pretty competitive. This weekend is a different challenge. We'll try to improve our breakdown skills and hopefully it works in our favour this weekend.

"It's completely different playing against Fiji than playing against Wales. That's one of the areas we're trying to improve on every week, but there's a lot of stuff different from Fiji. They seem to be pretty expansive, their locks seem to be faster than the wings sometimes, so it's pretty tough to keep them quiet."

Burger said it was simply a relief for the Springboks to get the Wales match behind them after such a long period of preparation and anticipation. He conceded the long wait to begin South Africa's World Cup defense had been a strain on players.

"Obviously the worst part was getting here pretty early and waiting for the first game, because it was obviously a high-pressure situation," he said. "You do take quite a bit of strain in that first week, so obviously after a tight victory in that first match there's a sense of relief in the team - almost like the monkey's off your back and you can go out and play some rugby now.

"So we've got Fiji coming up Saturday. It's going to be another tough challenge and ... we prepared well and are now just keen to get out there and play some rugby."


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