Burger in 2007
|Full name||Schalk Willem Petrus Burger Jr.|
|Date of birth||13 April 1983|
|Place of birth||Port Elizabeth, South Africa|
|Height||193 cm (6 ft 4 in)|
|Weight||114 kg (251 lb; 17 st 13 lb)|
|University||University of Stellenbosch|
|Notable relative(s)||Schalk Burger(father)|
|Rugby union career|
He was a member of the 2007 Rugby World Cup-winning team, has twice been named South African Rugby Player of the Year (in 2004 and 2011), and was named IRB Player of the Year in 2004, among other accolades. He also holds the record for the most appearances (84) and most tries scored (13) by a Springbok flanker. However, Burger's physical approach has also resulted in him being shown a yellow card six times in international rugby, second only to Italy's Marco Bortolami (7 times) as of June 2014. Burger has also suffered injuries, especially to his neck and knee, which have sidelined him for considerable periods at a time. He has also played four times for the Barbarians.
Burger is one of a handful of second-generation Springboks. His father, also called Schalk Burger, was an international lock, being capped for South Africa during the "isolation years" of the 1980s. Burger attended high school at Paarl Gimnasium, along with future teammate and Springbok captain Jean de Villiers, and enjoyed success in many sports. Burger attended Stellenbosch University and stayed in Eendrag Men's Residence before leaving in order to pursue a full-time 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, Burger 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 12, Tri-Nations and Currie Cup.
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 17 June, 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. 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." 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." The South African Rugby Union released 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.
2007 – Rugby World Cup Champion
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. 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.
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.
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 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. 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.
During the opening minute of the second British and Irish Lions test at Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria, Burger made contact with the eyes of Lions winger Luke Fitzgerald. The incident was seen by touch judge Bryce Lawrence who reported it to match referee Christophe Berdos, who awarded a yellow card. Burger was subsequently cited by the commissioning officer for "making contact with the eye area"  and then handed an eight-week ban. A later investigation by judicial officer Alan Hudson concluded that contact with the face was made but there was no intention to gouge Fitzgerald's eyes, but that Burger acted "contrary to good sportsmanship by making contact with the face in the eye area." Burger responded by saying "...I only have the utmost respect for the traditions of the wonderful game of rugby. Through my life and career I have always approached the game with the intention only of playing it hard and fair. I am not a rugby thug and will never intentionally engage in eye gouging or similar illegal actions."
Burger was selected for the 2010 Tri Nations series as part of the South African squad to play six matches. The first game was against New Zealand on the 10 July 2010 in Auckland. He started that match at blindside Flanker. South Africa lost that match 32-12. But in the second game against New Zealand which South Africa lost 31-17 Burger scored a try. He scored his second and final try of the tournament against New Zealand.
During the 2010 Currie Cup final, which Western Province lost to the Sharks 30–10, Burger suffered a broken rib. However, he was not substituted during the match, and also scored Western Province's only try. Scans after the game revealed the injury, which would force Burger to miss the 2010 end-of-year rugby union tests against the Home Unions.
2011 – Rugby World Cup
Burger was selected for the 2011 Rugby World Cup. He played the first game against Wales which South Africa won 17-16. He played all the matches in group D. South Africa were knocked out however in the Quarter Finals against Australia. He was ruled out of South Africa's Summer tour of England with injury. In November at the end-of-year awards ceremony in Johannesburg, Burger was named the SARU's Player of the Year for the second time, becoming the fifth Springbok to win the award more than once.
Over the following two seasons, Burger struggled with injury and illness.
During preparations for the 2013 Super Rugby season, Burger pulled up during a running exercise after experiencing spasms in his left calf. A back scan revealed a cyst next to his spinal cord impacting the nerve which influenced the calf muscle's performance, and he underwent an operation to drain the cyst and relieve pressure on the nerve. It was thought at the time that Burger would miss at least the first three weeks of the season.
However, severe complications followed. During the initial operation, Burger contracted a hospital bug, which resulted in bacterial meningitis. At one stage during the isolation period, Burger's condition became so serious that there were genuine fears for his life. After his situation had improved, he then had to endure a series of operations to remove the cyst completely. In total, Burger would spend six weeks in hospital and a further eight weeks recovering indoors. Burger resumed training at the end of July, but was reluctant to set a definite return date:
To give a timeline is quite difficult... I certainly don't want to over-commit. The good news is that I can start to train properly and get the heart-rate up. That, in itself, is exciting news and I look forward to increasing my training schedule over the next few weeks with the help of the strength and conditioning team at WP Rugby. We will then reassess things again in a month's time.
Burger finally returned to action in late September, coming off the bench for the final 20 minutes of the Currie Cup match between Western Province and Free State Cheetahs in Bloemfontein. Although it was not a spectacular comeback, he emerged unscathed as Western Province came from behind to win 29–27. It was Burger's first competitive appearance since injuring his knee 18 months earlier.
On May 24, during the Stormers' 33–0 win over the Cheetahs, Burger suffered a neck injury. The injury was not serious, but he failed to recover in time for the following match against the Sharks in Durban. On 2 June, it was announced that Burger had signed a two-year contract with Japanese Top League side Suntory Sungoliath. As part of his contract, he would still be available to play for the Stormers and the national side, but would not feature during the 2014 Currie Cup. For the 2014 June test series against Wales and Scotland, Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer named Burger and Victor Matfield in the squad of 36 players. Both had not played for South Africa since the 2011 World Cup.
2015 – Rugby World Cup Bronze Medalist
Due to his success in returning to the Springboks after recovering from spinal meningitis, he was awarded the Comeback of the Year Award at the Laureus World Sports Awards. He joined the list of Super Rugby centurions during their Round 7 match against the Highlanders in Dunedin, starting the match which ended in a 21–39 defeat for the Stormers. Selected as part of the Springbok squad at the 2015 Rugby World Cup, Schalk started in all seven matches, the majority as openside flanker, with a sole appearance as number eight in their Pool B match against Japan. The Springboks reached the semi-finals, bowing out to eventual champions New Zealand (18-20), before clinching the Bronze Final against Argentina (24-13). Burger scored tries against Samoa and Scotland in the pool stages, and assisted Fourie du Preez's try in their victory against Wales (23-19) in the Quarter Finals. Schalk finished the tournament as the player with the equal second most RWC tournament participations (4), equal third most RWC matches won (16), as well as being the player with the equal second highest number of RWC matches contested (20), bested solely by Jason Leonard and Richie McCaw (22). Burger was also drawn into 2015 RWC sponsors Société Générale's dream team, taking the position of openside flanker. Dismissing any notion of continuing to play for the Springboks in 2016 and beyond, Burger had suggested the commencement of his international retirement after the 2015 RWC Bronze Final.
2016 – Saracens
Burger is the eldest child of Schalk Burger Snr and his wife Myra. He has two younger siblings – brother Tiaan and sister René, who in 2008 gained international attention for speaking out after she was gang-raped.
When not playing rugby, Burger lives and works with his family on the Welbedacht Wine Estate near Wellington, Western Cape.
After dating for six years, Burger was engaged to Michele de Munck, an interior designer from Cape Town. They married at the Welbedacht Estate on 3 December 2011. The couple had their first child, Schalk Jr, in August 2012, and their second son Nicol was born in March 2014.
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- Paxinos, Stathi (3 June 2011). "Fighting spirit runs in the Burger family". Sydney Morning Herald.
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- ESPN Scrum Profile
- WP rugby Profile
- "SA Rugby Player Profile – Schalk Burger". South African Rugby Union. Retrieved 2 June 2016.
- Itsrugby – Super 14 stats
- Barbarians Profile
- Schalk Burger & Sons Welbedacht Wine Estate
- Laureus Profile
|Rugby Union Captain|
Jean de Villiers
Fourie du Preez