Rob Houwing, Sport24 chief writer
Cape Town – The people have spoken ... that
incredible-engined loose forward Schalk Burger is their choice to assume the
captaincy mantle of South Africa.
Following the respective retirements from
the Springbok game of veterans John Smit and his deputy Victor Matfield after
the World Cup, Sport24 posed the question on a readers’ poll: “Who should be
the man to lead the Springboks going forward?”
Almost 4,500 respondents gave little short
of 2,000 votes to the skipper of South Africa’s best-performing Super Rugby
franchise in 2011, the Stormers: a healthy 44% share of the “market”.
Burger has earned universal praise for his
consistently strong personal performances at RWC 2011, where the Boks
controversially exited at the quarter-final stage to the Wallabies despite the
Paarl Gym product being full of his customary energy and mongrel aggression in
The No 7 flank – he could arguably do just
as much justice to a Test No 6 or 8 jersey – may seem like a veteran of the
game but he is only 28 and, if properly managed, could feasibly still represent
his country at the 2015 World Cup.
Of course some critics do have some
reservations about his impulsive streak at times (even if it can often work in
favour of the cause Burger is fighting for) and occasional bouts of
hot-headedness that provoke the card-brandishing ire of referees.
Perhaps some pundits with those
reservations turned out in droves at the poll for Juan Smith, another Bok
“loosie” who missed RWC 2011 because of a long-term Achilles tendon injury –
the tall Free Stater was second-best choice with a still significant 29% of
backing, although age counts a little more against him as he has already hit
the 30 mark.
Then there is a fair drop to almost 15% of
support for Bismarck du Plessis, the contentious “second choice” at hooker
during the latest World Cup, even if the inspiring, in-your-face No 2 has no
first-class record of any substance in a leadership capacity.
Other choices provided, like Andries
Bekker, Jean de Villiers and Jaque Fourie, each got a more minor 3% at best.