South Africa’s Schalk Burger is one of the leading rugby players in the world and was a member of the triumphant Springboks team which won the Rugby World Cup in 2007.
He burst onto the international rugby scene in unforgettable style in 2004. Following great success at Under-21 level, Schalk’s call up to the senior team coincided with a resurgence in Springbok fortunes, with the team going on to secure Tri-Nations success for the first time in six years.
As testament to the flanker’s achievements and impact on his team, Burger was named the International Rugby Board International Player of the Year for 2004, the first Springbok to be honoured with the accolade since its inception.
During the following two years, Burger established himself as a powerful force in the rugby world. He quickly became admired for his creative open play, while being equally feared for his reputation as one of the hardest players the game has ever seen.
It was, however, during a Springboks Test match against Scotland in 2006 that Burger, then 23, suffered an injury that threatened to spell the end of his promising career. With damage to his neck, he needed spinal fusion surgery and it was feared he might never play again. However the operation was successful and after eight months of rehabilitation, he returned with dramatic effect.
He was immediately selected for the Springboks team to compete at the 2007 Rugby World Cup in France. He played a pivotal role throughout the tournament and his team reached the final, beating England 15-6.
Away from international competition, Burger has been at the same two club teams since the start of his career, playing for Cape Town based teams Stormers and the Western Province since 2003 and 2004 respectively. He is captain for both clubs.
Burger has grown to become one of the true stars of the modern game; both a physical presence but also showing skill and creativity during matches.