Burger back in Stormers hot seat
SCHALK Burger regained the Stormers captaincy on Wednesday but was nearly instantly unseated.
Moments after being named as skipper for the 2013 season, Burger’s plastic chair collapsed under him. He was saved from a nasty fall — and possible injury — only by cat-like reflexes when he grabbed the table.
After much guffawing and some blushes, coach Allister Coetzee expressed relief that he had not lost his captain even earlier than he had last year.
Burger’s 2012 season lasted 20 minutes into the first match. Torn knee ligaments put him out of the game for 11 months and Jean de Villiers took over the captaincy.
Two knee operations, months of rehabilitation and one baby boy later, Burger is ready to resume his interrupted career and help take the Stormers one step further this year.
"I feel good although pre-season fitness has been pretty difficult," Burger said. "I’ve got to get my conditioning to a level where I can play some good rugby again.
"I know I have a lot of energy and sitting on the sidelines for so long has increased my hunger to play again and built up some extra motivation.
"There is always a little bit of doubt about how you will perform after such a long injury and my own expectations are pretty low at this stage.
"But it’s all about training well and putting in the hard yards before the season, and that will have benefits afterwards.
"When you’re playing rugby week in and week out it’s easy to become stale and one-dimensional, but now, having spent 11 months away from rugby, I have a different outlook, which I can put to good use.
"So many people asked me if I’d retired when they saw me grocery shopping. But I spent a lot of quality time with my wife and son — I’m an expert on the nappy drill. I took the view that the knee injury was my sabbatical.
"However, spending this week with the team has made me realise what I’ve missed. I can’t wait to get back and perform. The captaincy is not about me — we have a great core of leaders who will all assist in taking the team forward."
Burger said last year’s Currie Cup win had lifted the team over a mental hurdle and it would be a good building block for the Stormers, who are attempting to win the Super Rugby title for the first time.
"Super Rugby is the big one and hopefully we can put ourselves into contention by making the playoffs," he said.