He may not be the main man anymore but Burger is still a formidable presence on the bench for South Africa. Billy Stickland/INPHO
beef burger

An away win in Ireland is one thing left on Schalk Burger's rugby bucket list

Burger is set to play Ireland for the first time in five years.

THERE AREN’T MANY things in the game of rugby that South African flanker Schalk Burger hasn’t achieved. He has ticked the three major boxes of World Cup, Tri-Nations and Lions Series wins and has beaten almost all of the major nations both home and away.

One thing that is missing from his rugby CV is a win against Ireland in Dublin. Burger’s two appearances over here resulted in defeats in ’04 and ’09 and the rampaging Burger hasn’t been part of the travelling squads who have tasted victory at the Aviva Stadium in the last few years.

Having only been on the losing side on his visits to Dublin, Burger isn’t entirely sure what the Springboks have changed on subsequent trips, although he does hope that his absence hasn’t been what swung the games in South Africa’s favour.

“I’ve got no idea since I haven’t been part of it but maybe that is the reason,” Burger said.

“We have a quality side and once you get good systems in place you start to deliver more consistent performances.”

Ireland are missing some of their big ball carriers for the South Africa clash and it is a massive shame for fans to miss out on Sean O’Brien thundering into Schalk Burger and co. However, the South African flanker thinks Ireland’s strength in depth is good enough to withstand a few absences.

“I think they are similar to most modern back rows,” O’Brien said.

“They have good size and the balance seems to be good. Players come and go but just like in the Springboks set-up, other guys step up and take their opportunity. They have a phenomenal back row and it is going to be tough on Saturday.”

South Africa ruled Ruan Pienaar out of their autumn tour this week and coach Heyneke Meyer said it would have been ‘unethical’ to get Pienaar to divulge details about his Ulster teammates. Burger agrees, but wouldn’t have been totally against taking Pienaar on a night out to get the inside scoop.

“He is a great player and it is a pity he is not with us but he didn’t give too much away about his teammates in Ireland,” Burger said.

Schalk Burger 5/11/2014 Burger looks just as comfortable in a staged photo shoot as he does crunching opponents. James Crombie / INPHO James Crombie / INPHO / INPHO


“It’s a pity, that. Maybe if we had given him a few Guinness’ tonight he would have given us some information but he has gone home now.”

South Africa have throttled opponents regularly during Heyneke Meyer’s three years in charge but as of their last Rugby Championship game they hadn’t yet beaten the All Blacks during that span. Burger was involved in the incident that led to replacement out-half Pat Lambie kicking the winning points for South Africa and says that beating the All Blacks was huge for the current group.

“I think it was important from a mental aspect,” Burger said.

“Under Heyneke, that was the first time we had won against the All Blacks. A lot of the older players had beaten the All Blacks on a fairly regular basis but for this new group of players I think it was important.”

A lot of publicity has been given to South Africa’s new adventurous style and they have the highest try per game average in international rugby in the last two seasons. Burger acknowledged that a different approach is required by the forwards to play at an increased tempo.

“It is a different mindset,” Burger said.

“Conditioning-wise, it puts you under different pressure. There is a perception around South Africans and the way we play and I think that probably holds true most of the time. But within our franchises in South Africa, we like to play rugby so we’ve tried to get that into the Springboks.

“It is not going to happen overnight but it is important to keep on building and to keep on winning. If you start losing and the pressure comes on it is pretty hard to express yourself.”

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