Burger’s in the bucks

Two lucrative offers could see Springbok star Schalk Burger playing in France or England next season.

Two weeks ago keo.co.za reported that big spending French second division side Toulon had approached Burger midway through 2007, who turned down a substantial offer. Millionaire Toulon president Mourad Boudjellal has, however, hit back with a second approach, reported by the Cape Argus to be €650 000 (around R7 million).

“Schalk is a fantastic player and he would add great value to Toulon,” Boudjellal told keo.co.za. “We are an ambitious club and if we gain promotion to the Top 14 we would need to bolster the squad. Schalk is a warrior and the people of Toulon love players like him. He would fit in perfectly here.”

Toulon already boast players of the calibre of Victor Matfield, George Gregan, Andrew Mehrtens and Anton Oliver and are coached by All Blacks legend Tana Umaga. They’ve also courted Bakkies Botha, who is keen to make the move from the Bulls despite still having four years to run on his existing contract. They have set their sights on acquiring a world class flyhalf and tighthead prop – the names of Jonny Wilkinson and Frédéric Michalak have been mentioned around the club as possible replacements for Mehrtens. They also attempted to sign All Blacks loose forward Jerry Collins last year.

Boujellal, who has built his comic book publishing company Soleil Productions into a €50 million (R 550 million) a year business, has arguably the largest and most culturally diverse squad of players in world rugby. There are currently seven South Africans (Matfied, Chris Rossouw, Francois van Schouwenburg, Wessel Roux, Lawrence Sephaka, Norman Jordaan and Nico Breedt), 23 Frenchmen, an Argentinean, two Australians, an Englishman, a Fijian, three New Zealanders, three Samoans, a Scotsman, a Tongan, a Georgian and not forgetting a Czech and a Senegalese, who constitute the squad.

The Argus also reports that English Premiership side Harlequins have tabled a €450 000 offer for Burger. The 24-year-old has two years to run on his Stormers contract and was quoted at the end of 2007 as saying he hopes to remain in South Africa for his entire career. However, with the sort of money being flung at him and the opportunity to experience a different rugby culture, his loyalty will be severely tested.

Keo.co.za has learnt that Parisian clubs Stade Français and Racing Metro are in a race for Springbok loosehead prop Gürthro Steenkamp’s signature, while a host of other key Boks are reportedly being lined up.

Springbok coach Peter de Villiers has been quoted as saying that he would give preference to South African based players when he selects his squads. But with the exodus of elite players set to snowball in the coming years, he could be forced to back down on that philosophy.

By Ryan Vrede