Rugby World Cup 2011

Schalk: People’s pick as capt

2011-10-14 10:33
Schalk Burger (Gallo)

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 Wellington.

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.


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