Schalk wines and dines

Injured Springbok loose-forward Schalk Burger is taking a complete hiatus from the game in order to come back strongly for next season.

“I’ve been playing rugby for the last four years straight, so I’m not spending to much time around the team [Vodacom Western Province] or the game,” the IRB Player of the Year for 2004 told keo.co.za.

Doctors discovered a displacement in Burger’s neck bone after he complained about extreme pain in the area following the Springboks second Test against Scotland in Port Elizabeth earlier this year. Subsequently he has had to have two vertebrae in his neck fused through surgery.

Speaking to the site on route to visit a friend in Wellington, Burger sounds more relaxed than he has at any time during his career.

“I’m just taking a complete break from rugby, doing things I’ve always wanted to do but have not had the chance to do because of my rugby commitments,” he said.”I’m seeing places I’ve always wanted to see and enjoying some nice wines and it’s been great.”

Burger played 24 Tests and a total of 1 620 minutes of rugby before the injury sidelined him. And though he says he misses the intensity of Test rugby, he is not rushing back.

“Look, it’s been exactly four weeks since the surgery so I’m taking things slowly. We want to make sure that when I come back I’m completely healed. In three to four months time I can start running and doing light weights again, so that’s my next target. But as far as rugby’s concerned, I’ll only play again sometime next season.”

He is full of praise for the young Western Province team’s performance in the Absa Currie Cup so far.

“They’ve been absolutely fantastic so far and I’m helluva proud of the boys performances,” he said, but at the same sounded a caution to the Cape side.”We’ve been in this position before, where we’ve looked good early on, then got to the semi-final and lost. Our goal is to go all the way and win the thing. With the side we’ve got, there is no reason why we can’t.”

By Ryan Vrede

– Read more about Schalk’s injury in the new edition of SA Rugby Magazine – out now.