Experienced loose forward Schalk Burger will become the 55th Springbok captain on Saturday when he leads South Africa out against New Zealand in Johannesburg. The 32-year-old Burger has been named interim captain, in the absence of the injured Jean De Villiers and Victor Matfield. He assumes the captaincy from Matfield, who was ruled out of action in the short term after suffering a hamstring strain against Australia on Saturday.
Bok boss Heyneke Meyer says: ‘Schalk has been a magnificent servant of Springbok rugby and he fully deserves this responsibility. The resilience he’s shown in coming back from serious injury and illness is the kind of qualities I look for in players as well as teams I coach. In my eyes, the captaincy is very important and something I never take lightly or want to cheapen. Schalk’s character and the fact that he has been a role model for so many through the years made this an easy decision. He’s always led through example and has distinguished himself as one of the best leaders in South African rugby in the last decade. I’m very excited to see what he can bring in the absence of Jean and Victor.’ Burger has captained the Stormers and Western Province with distinction and will become the tenth most-capped Springbok on Saturday, winning his 77th cap, moving level with lock forward Mark Andrews. He overcame serious injury and illness in 2014 to fight his way back into Springbok contention, recapturing the form that made him one of the most highly regarded loose forwards in world rugby.
He was named World Rugby Player of the Year (2004) and has twice been named the SA Rugby Player of the Year, in 2004 and 2011. He was a member of Rugby World Cup winning Springbok side in 2007 and played in the South African team that won the Under-21 World Cup in 2002. His father, Schalk (Snr), played six Tests for South Africa between 1984 and 1986.
Burger, who made his Test debut at the Rugby World Cup in 2003, said he was humbled by the decision to name him captain: ‘I’m a very proud man today, but at the same time I’m humbled by the faith the coach has shown in me. Ever since I first put on the Springbok jersey, my dream has been to represent my country with distinction and to make South Africans proud. It’s still sinking in that I will actually captain the Boks. This is an honour that is bestowed upon only a select few people and I will do whatever is needed for the team. With this position comes massive responsibility and I’m very excited for Saturday.’
Photo credit: Gallo Images / Duif Du Toit