Burger relishing Lions challenge
June 24, 2009
Flanker Schalk Burger will win his 50th Springboks cap against the Lions in Pretoria on Saturday © Getty Images
Springboks flanker Schalk Burger is determined to heap woe on the British & Irish Lions when the two sides meet in the pivotal second Test in Pretoria on Saturday.
The 26-year-old will win his 50th international cap for the Springboks when he runs out at Loftus Versfeld after being named ahead of Heinrich Brussow in the starting XV. Burger missed the 26-21 first Test win in Durban last week with a calf injury and is the only new face in Peter de Villiers' starting line-up.
The other changes are on the bench, where hooker Chiliboy Ralepelle is named ahead of prop Gurthro Steenkamp and scrum-half Ricky Januarie makes way to accommodate Brussow.
"It's great to be back and it will be a great privilege to play a Lions Test match," Burger said. "I am really looking forward to it. It's a once in a lifetime opportunity to face the Lions and I will hopefully have a good performance.
"It's always nice reaching milestones. The previous Tests have come and gone and hopefully I can celebrate my 50th with a win as well on Saturday night."
Burger, South Africa's player of the year in 2004, also revealed his relief at being fit after sustaining injury during the Super 14 season.
"Obviously I was pretty worried when I got injured in the Super 14. Since then it's been pretty slow, but the calf's been improving. So it was just a matter of time before I was fit again and luckily it's now. I was nearly ready for the Test match in Durban, so it's pleasing to be back now."
The in-form Brussow can consider himself unlucky to have lost his place in the side after an eye-catching debut in Durban that included a try. But Burger vowed to maintain the high standards set by his team mate throughout this season.
"We're both opensiders and we like to play towards the ball. He has his own way of playing and I have my way of playing. We've got a different take on playing openside and that will never change. I've played in the same way for the last six or seven years and that's never going to change."
Burger, who made his debut against Georgia at the 2003 World Cup and has scored 10 Test tries, knows they face a battle in Pretoria.
"It's always difficult playing against the Lions, because we don't know them well," he added. "When we play Australia and New Zealand, we really know them well because we meet so often. Certain players from the Lions we haven't seen enough and they really impressed us when we watched them for the first time.
"But I think all these Test matches are going to be tough. There's definitely not going to be any walkovers. I think they are definitely going to try and improve their physical performance - especially first phase -from the past weekend. So we'll have to be up to that."
Martin Gillingham looks ahead to what he believes is the most remarkable ever climax to the league phase of the Top 14
With just two rounds left in the regular season, we look at the prospects of the teams taking part in the Championship play-offs
Joe Simpson talks to Charlie Morgan about loss, Wasps and being England's game-breaker
It is 100 years this week since the last international match played in Europe before the outbreak of World War One. Rewind remembers the fixture's longest-living survivor