Burger to continue as Stormers leader?

    2016-07-13 14:00

    Gavin Rich - SuperSport

    Cape Town - Should Frans Malherbe be cleared to play, he will be included in the Stormers’ leadership plan for the final Super Rugby league fixture against the Southern Kings and the play-off phase that follows, but Schalk Burger looks set to remain on as co-captain, reports.

    The legendary Stormers veteran is coming to the end of a celebrated and long career with the Cape franchise that started in 2004 (he made his Western Province debut before that in 2003) before taking up a contract with England club Saracens at the end of the Super Rugby season.

    With the two co-captains selected for the season, Juan de Jongh and Malherbe, both missing for the tour of Australia, Burger took the captaincy reins and the players appeared to respond to his clear leadership and sense of direction. Against both the Rebels and the Western Force there were difficult moments for the Stormers that they managed to get through, and Burger’s experience was key.

    When Burger is captaining the side, the identity of the team leader is more noticeable than when De Jongh, who is unavailable for the final phase of the season because of Springbok Sevens commitment, and Malherbe are at the helm.

    And with Burger probably playing his farewell game in Stormers colours at Newlands in the quarter-final - the Stormers are likely to travel if they make the semi-finals - it makes sense to have his inspirational leadership and experience at the helm. Everyone knows that the one thing Burger has not achieved in his stellar career is a trophy with the Stormers, and having him as captain now would galvanise support for the team.

    But the Stormers brains trust, which would have included not just Fleck but director of rugby Gert Smal too, had their reasons for going for the two younger players as co-captains this season, and Fleck says the reasoning has not changed.

    “The reason we went for co-captains was to develop leadership. Frans is a young leader and we want to develop him, so if he is available this week, he will be part of the leadership,” said Fleck.

    “Schalk will not be playing for us next year so we need to develop leaders who can step into his shoes. Schalk has really stepped up to the plate as captain over the past few weeks. But he and Frans work well together, and if he is fit for selection, Frans will work in a leadership role with Schalk.”

    Reading between the lines, however, it should be Burger who leads the side out onto the field in the next two games, as Fleck has hinted that Malherbe might be reintroduced after his lay-off for a shoulder injury by playing off the bench.

    “I was very impressed with the way that Vincent Koch played against the Western Force. It was the best rugby he has played for us all year and he did really well on tour,” said Fleck.

    “He wants to win a trophy with us before he leaves to play overseas, and we are in a good position in that he is putting pressure on Frans for the starting position. For the play-offs we will choose the best team at the time relating to form and fitness, and we won’t pay attention to what is happening at the Springboks (Malherbe is Bok first choice tighthead).

    “Frans is coming back from a neck injury and his readiness to be part of a play-off still needs to be assessed. For play off rugby you want the guys who are fit and in form to play, and whoever plays well now will be rewarded with selection.”

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