'Disaster year': Schalk speaks

2013-01-16 15:22
Schalk Burger (Gallo)
Hermanus - Schalk Burger has always been a bit of a rugby wrecking ball, and seemingly one without an “off” switch, given the near constant high work rate and vigour he is renowned for.

So it will be a relief to his fan club to know that the 29-year-old loose forward - confirmed here by coach Allister Coetzee on Wednesday as resuming the Stormers captaincy in 2013 - is keenly anticipating getting back between the white lines early next month after a previous year he described as “a bit of a disaster” given his unusual absence for some 11 months of it.

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Coetzee told Sport24 that he anticipated fielding the 68-cap Springbok in one of the warm-up games (they play the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein on February 2 and Boland at Wellington on the 9th) - all going well, it ought to signal that Burger will be ready for the start of the Super Rugby campaign-proper against the Bulls at Loftus later in the month.

Burger himself also addressed one of the first media opportunities he has attended in some time, following a squad training session at a primary school here, held in typical summer Overberg heat of some 34 deg C.

“I’m ready to go and looking forward to it. Obviously pre-season’s been tough. Last year was a bit of a disaster; it’s good to be back on a rugby field.

“I’ve just got to try to get my conditioning back to a level where I can play some good rugby again. But I’ve got a lot of energy after just about a year on the sidelines - you build up some extra motivation.

“It’s also nice captaining the side again (Springbok skipper Jean de Villiers gets some respite from the franchise responsibility - Sport24) but it’s not about me.

“There’s a great group of experienced leaders all around ... I’ve really just got to do some post-match interviews and keep you guys happy!

“Hopefully it will be a really successful 2013 for the Stormers. We’ve created many opportunities in the past to win the trophy ... it’s a big competition and hopefully we can put ourselves right in contention again.

“You don’t want to jump the gun; you do have to take it week by week.”

Burger, comfortingly, has had a reputation before for getting back into the groove notably quickly after stints on the sidelines, though he conceded that the latest, long-term knee problem had been the most debilitating for him.

“When you first get back from an injury there’s always likely to be a little bit of doubt so I don’t want to heap myself with expectations. But you get yourself into form by training well; putting in the hard yards makes it a lot easier.

“Things can become a bit one-dimensional and stale when you play week in and week out. Hopefully having spent some 12 months out, I’ll have a slightly different outlook now, and put it to good use for the team.”

Burger said it was difficult bumping into rugby enthusiasts, in public, and being asked whether he had retired, given the lengthy duration of his absence.

“Yes, when you’re out grocery shopping - because that’s what you do when not (active in) rugby - every second person who speaks to you says ‘are you still playing or are you retired?’

“It does give you that extra motivational to get back into it. You’re a rugby player and want to play the game.

“But I did get good time with my wife and my little kid ... I can tell you I’m an expert on the nappy drill.

“Still, getting back with the team makes you realise how much you miss rugby. It’s great to be running around.

“I’ve had plenty of (shorter-term) injuries in the past and I’m taking the view that this was kind of my sabbatical - hopefully this means I can play now to 2025!”

While Burger was sidelined, promising Siya Kolisi played commendably after a forced shift to the senior professional’s open-side flank role.

But coach Coetzee seemed to play down the possibility that Burger might do the blind-side task as a result.

“Siya was a natural seven initially, and he adapted well at six in place of Schalk. But the key thing about our loosie combination is that players are adaptable ... Schalk can also play at seven, and even at eight.

“Siya is also now a year wiser, a year more mature. It depends who we are playing; what we want to achieve.”

*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing

Read more on:    stormers  |  schalk burger  |  rugby

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