Cape Town - Legendary loose forward Schalk Burger will become the Stormers' fourth-ever outright Super Rugby centurion when he lines up in the No 7 jersey against the Highlanders in Dunedin on Saturday, the Stormers' official website reports.
Burger will make his first start of 2015, having featured off the bench twice thus far, and follows in the footsteps of Andries Bekker, Jean de Villiers and Peter Grant - all of whom have also played 100 games or more for the Stormers.
Bekker and Grant finished their Stormers careers in 2013 and 2014, respectively, on 104 appearances, whilst De Villiers has played 105 games - meaning that Burger could go on to become the most-capped Stormers player of all time this season.
The two-times SA Rugby Player of the Year will become the 34th overall Super Rugby South African centurion, with Stormers squad captain Duane Vermeulen having recently joined the club (with 80 Stormers appearances and 20 for the Cheetahs) and Bryan Habana passing the 100-game mark with 61 games for the Bulls and a further 57 for the Stormers.
Thirty-one-year-old Burger, who made a remarkable recovery from serious injury and illness at the end of 2013 after 18 months on the sidelines, made his Stormers debut against the Waratahs at Newlands on March 13, 2004.
Burger made his Test debut a couple of months earlier, at the 2003 Rugby World Cup in Australia, making him one of just 22 Springboks who played Test rugby before featuring at Super Rugby level.
Burger was lauded for his efforts over the years:
Stormers coach Allister Coetzee:
“I don’t think people realise exactly what Schalk went through in 2012 and 2013, first with his knee injury and then his illness. He is the ultimate warrior and just to get back into the game after his setbacks, never mind what he has achieved since then, speaks volumes about the man’s character as does his recent nomination for the Laureus World Comeback of the Year Award.”
Springbok captain Jean de Villiers:
“Schalk’s rugby achievements speak for themselves. It’s an honour to have played alongside him for so long and to call this man my friend. I wish I could have been there alongside him and celebrating his 100th match this week, but I wish him and the team well in Dunedin on Saturday… I will be watching and willing the guys on from home!”
Stormers team-mate Siya Kolisi:
“For me, as always, it will be an honour and a privilege playing alongside the legend that is Schalk Burger (on Saturday). Everyone knows that he’s been my hero since I was young and to be sharing this moment with him is beyond my wildest dreams. We all want to do our best and win this one for him, but Schalk, typically, doesn’t want us to make a fuss about him or to lose to any focus. But we all know how special he is for WP Rugby and how great he’s been for the Stormers since 2004… He really is a warrior, having fought some big battles on and off the field and we, as players, would love to make it a special landmark for him.”
Schalk Burger factfile:
Date and place of birth: April 13, 1983 in Port Elizabeth
Stormers debut: v Waratahs, March 13, 2004
Western Province caps: 37 (debut v Mighty Elephants - March 21, 2003)
Springbok Test caps: 75 (debut v Georgia - September 24, 2003)
Full list of South African Super Rugby centurions (active Super Rugby players in bold):
143: Victor Matfield (Cats 8, Bulls 135)
137: Jannie du Plessis (Cheetahs 26, Sharks 111)
125: AJ Venter (Cats 19, Sharks 96, Stormers 10), John Smit (Sharks)
123: Morne Steyn (Bulls)
122: Stefan Terblanche (Sharks)
125: Bismarck du Plessis (Sharks)
118: Bryan Habana (Bulls 61, Stormers 57)
117: Odwa Ndungane (Bulls 10, Sharks 107)
116: Danie Rossouw (Bulls)
115: Jacques Botes (Sharks), JP Pietersen (Sharks)
113: Pedrie Wannenburg (Bulls), Adi Jacobs (Bulls 21, Cats 4, Sharks 88)
112: Fourie du Preez (Bulls)
110: Wynand Olivier (Bulls), Adriaan Strauss (Bulls 13, Cheetahs 97)
109: Werner Kruger (Bulls)
108: Ollie le Roux (Natal 24, Sharks 60, Cats 3, Cheetahs 21), Meyer Bosman (Cheetahs 61, Sharks 47), Akona Ndungane (Bulls), Pierre Spies (Bulls)
105: Jean de Villiers (Stormers), Tendai Mtawarira (Sharks), Keegan Daniel (Sharks)
104: Andries Bekker ( Stormers), Jano Vermaak (Cats 11, Lions 62, Bulls 31), Peter Grant (Stormers), Willem Alberts (Lions 37, Sharks 67)103: Duane Vermeulen (Cheetahs 20, Stormers 83)
102: Albert van den Berg (Cats 7, Sharks 95)
101: Ryan Kankowski (Sharks)
100: Bakkies Botha (Bulls)
99: Schalk Burger (Stormers)