Sunday, April 12, 2009

Schalk ("Schalla") Burger Jr. (born 13 April 1983 in Port Elizabeth) is a South African rugby union player. He plays the position of flanker in the Springbok rugby union team and is regarded as one of the best flankers in the world. Burger is recognized as a key player in the South African squad along with Victor Matfield, John Smit and Jean de Villiers and some other players.


His father, also called Schalk Burger, was an international lock, being capped for South Africa during the "isolation years" of the 1980s. Schalk was schooled at Paarl Gimnasium, and enjoyed success in many sports.

Rugby career

After playing for the Under 21 Springbok side that won the U21 Rugby World Cup in 2002 and then captaining it in 2003, Schalk was selected for the senior Springbok squad. He made his debut against Georgia in 2003 at the Rugby World Cup and has since carved out a name as one of the best flankers in the world with solid performances in the Super 12Tri-Nations and Currie Cup. Burger plays club rugby for the Stormersand Western Province.

Burger possesses all the necessary attributes to be a great loose forward. He is quick to the breakdown and has an abundance of stamina; he is rarely rested throughout the Stormers' Super 14 campaigns, South African Test matches or the Currie Cup. He is also a constructive link in open play with his ability to draw defenders and offload. Despite these strengths, Burger does have a problem on field with accruing yellow cards and penalties frequently, a problem common to many - if not all - 'fetcher' flankers in world rugby.[citation needed]


In 2004, Burger was selected as part of a rejuvenated Springbok squad which, under the guiding hand of new coach Jake White, went on to win the Tri-Nations trophy for the first time since Nick Mallett's team managed the feat in 1998.

To cap off a magnificent year, Burger was also awarded the most prestigious rugby player's award, the IRB International Player of the Year award in the 2004 season. In addition, he claimed the 2004 ABSA SA Rugby Player of the Year award.


After an indifferent 2006 Super 14 season, during which Burger showed only flashes of the brilliance that took him to the peak of world rugby, he was to once again start in his favoured number 6 shirt (openside flanker in South African rugby) in the national team for the upcoming expanded Tri-Nations test series against Australia and New Zealand. However, in the Springboks' Test match against Scotland on June 17th, Burger suffered a serious neck injury. The following day, it was confirmed that he would require cervical fusion surgery and would be out of action for at least the remainder of 2006.[1] The injury and the required surgery were serious enough for White to tell the media, "I don't want to jump to conclusions - but there is a chance he may never play again."[2] Burger's father told a Cape Town radio program that the injury was between his sixth and seventh cervical vertebrae, adding, "Although the operation is difficult the fact that the injury is lower down his neck is good for a future prognosis of making a full recovery."[2] The South African Rugby Unionreleased a statement on 24 June, the date of the surgery, indicating that the surgery was successful and that Burger would undergo six to eight months of rehabilitation with plans to return him to the game.[3]

2007 and the Rugby World Cup

Following successful surgery and rehabilitation, Burger returned to the Vodacom Stormers line-up on 13 January 2007, playing 55 minutes as the Stormers lost to the Bulls. Despite the loss, Burger did show flashes of the brilliance that took him to the peak of world rugby in 2004-05.[citation needed] After a shaky start to the 2007 Super 14 season, Burger inspired the Stormers to their first win of the campaign against the Chiefs as the Stormers recorded their first points of the season in a tense 21–16 victory at the Newlands Stadium.

In mid-2007 he was picked in the Springboks squad for the 2007 Rugby World Cup. He has been linked with a move to Harlequins of the English Premiership after the cup.[4]

During the Springboks' first match of the Rugby World Cup against Samoa, Burger was cited for a high tackle on Junior Polu, and on 11 September was given a four-match suspension which would have in theory kept him out of the team until the semi-final. However, this was reduced to a two-match suspension on appeal.[5]

Burger would return to play a key role in South Africa's World Cup triumph as the Springboks defeated England 15–6 to lift the Webb Ellis trophy and brought it back to South Africa for the second time in four attempts.


In March 2008, Burger was banned for openly abusing a touch judge in a Super 14 game for the Stormers against the Sharks in Durban. [6] The touch judge in question had suggested the referee send Burger to the sin-bin for an offense that the referee hadn't seen. Upon leaving the field, Burger was seen to be gesticulating and shouting at the touch judge. The citing commissioner decided that Burger be banned for two weeks for his actions. After another great season which saw the Stormers finish just short of making the play-offs, Burger was selected by new coach Peter de Villiers for the Springboks' 2008 Tri Nations campaign.

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