Cape Town - Stormers and Springbok flank Schalk Burger has won the Laureus World Comeback of the Year Award at the ceremony in Shanghai on Wednesday.
Burger had a cyst next to his spinal cord and went into
hospital for treatment, but developed life-threatening meningitis and was taken
to intensive care. Miraculously, he battled for his life and returned to the
sport he loves to win his place back in the Springboks rugby team.
Reflecting upon the most serious stage in his time in
intensive care, Burger said: “I remember the day where my wife phoned and
everyone said, listen, this is probably it, it's time to say goodbye. I wasn't
ready to say goodbye.
"It was super scary if you think back now.
"But when you're going through the middle of
this and there's no time to think really, there's no time to think about
consequences; it was pretty much just me versus something."
Burger, also a Laureus Ambassador, transferred his ferocious
competitiveness from the rugby pitch to the intensive care unit and with the
grit and determination he has been known for throughout his career, he overcame
his illness in miraculous style.
"The odds weren't on my side, as I gather. It's probably one that I shouldn't have come
out being as normal as I am," he recalled. But for me,
through a bit of luck and I think through a bit of stubbornness, I was able to
Not only did the 31-year-old pull through and pull on the
Springbock jersey once again, he was a key member of the squad to play
Australia and New Zealand in the Rugby Championship.
Then he was named man of
the match in the November victory over England at Twickenham, in which he
scored the decisive third try.
"The story of Schalk’s recovery is amazing. He
not only survived such a serious illness, but in a relatively short time he was
back in the Springboks team and winning matches for them. What a great tribute
to his fighting spirit.
"All he needs now to complete this remarkable comeback
is to have a wonderful World Cup later this year," said Laureus World Sports Academy Member and All Blacks rugby
legend Sean Fitzpatrick.
Former Springboks captain Morné du Plessis, who was also
manager of the 1995 World Cup winning team, said: "I have known Schalk and his
family for many years and I know that there were very real concerns for his
wellbeing during his illness.
"It really was a great relief for his family,
friends and supporters to just see him
well again, not even to think at that stage that he would make a miraculous
comeback and be back to his best on the rugby pitch."
The Laureus World Sports Awards were unveiled at the
Shanghai Grand Theatre.
"In other categories, Serbia’s Novak Djokovic won his
second Laureus World Sportsman of the Year Award after another brilliant 12
months which featured a second Wimbledon victory, while Ethiopia’s Genzebe
Dibaba was named Laureus World Sportswoman of the Year after breaking three
world records in different events in two weeks. She was only the third ever
person to achieve that feat in different events, along with athletic giants
Jesse Owens and Usain Bolt.
The German Football Team was named Laureus World Team of the
Year after becoming the first European side to win the FIFA World Cup in South
America, while there was a double success for the United States with wheelchair
racer Tatyana McFadden winning the Laureus Disability Award and Alan Eustace
receiving the Laureus Action Sports Award after his record-breaking freefall
from the edge of space.
Australia’s Daniel Ricciardo was named winner of the Laureus
World Breakthrough of the Year Award after a brilliant rookie season in which
he won three Formula One Grand Prix for Red Bull.
The Awards were announced in seven categories.
The full list
of winners is:
Laureus World Sportsman of the Year: Novak Djokovic
Laureus World Sportswoman of the Year: Genzebe Dibaba
Laureus World Team of the Year: Germany Men’s Football Team
Laureus World Breakthrough of the Year: Daniel Ricciardo
Laureus World Comeback of the Year: Schalk Burger
Laureus World Sportsperson of the Year with a Disability:
Laureus World Action Sportsperson of the Year: Alan Eustace
There were three additional Awards: the Laureus Spirit of
Sport Award was presented to Chinese basketball legend Yao Ming, the Laureus
Academy Exceptional Achievement Award was given to retired tennis star Li Na
and the Laureus Sport for Good Award was presented to the worldwide skateboard
During the event, it was also announced that Yao Ming and
Indian cricket legend Sachin Tendulkar had been elected the newest members of
the Laureus World Sports Academy.