There was a time when he walked a disciplinary tightrope, but Schalk Burger appears to be on course to succeed John Smit as Springbok captain.
Stephen Nell – Sport24
The 27-year-old flanker’s first season as captain of the Stormers has been a resounding success, with the Cape side set to play their first home semi-final since 1999 against the Waratahs at Newlands on Saturday.
Burger has been in exceptional form this year and the Stormers’ discipline has also been good under his leadership. Bryan Habana’s yellow card for a professional foul against the Bulls at the weekend was their first of season.
Burger’s experience of 55 Tests and his success as captain of the Stormers may well make him a logical choice as Bok skipper once John Smit and Victor Matfield call time on their Test careers, probably after next year’s World Cup.
It may even be with Allister Coetzee as Bok coach, though Peter de Villiers may also decide to make himself available for another stint.
Coetzee and Burger have been a success story in their first season as head coach and captain.
Former Bok and Stormers captain Corné Krige believes Burger’s major attribute as skipper is that he leads by example.
“If you lead by example, you don’t have to say much. Schalk plays his heart out in every game,” said Krige.
With the Stormers playing the Waratahs on Saturday, many experts will look to pit him against Phil Waugh in a battle of the fetchers.
The reality, however, is that not one of the Stormers’ three leading loose forwards are in the traditional mould of a fetching flank.
Louw is probably the closest to being a fetcher, but the value of all three loose forwards lies in their all-round abilities.
Burger has a good work-rate at the rucks, but is particularly effective as a ball-carrier.
According to Verusco’s statistics (supplied by www.ruggastats.com), his 220 ball carries this year have yielded 445m made after contact with the first defender.
Waugh wins turnover possession more often, but only made 222m from 196 carries.
All three Stormers loose forwards are also lineout options, while Waugh is not.
The all-round abilities of the Stormers trio may well be what makes them such an impressive unit.
“Schalk is particularly valuable because of his work-rate, but he’s too big and tall to be effective in the traditional role of an openside flank,” said Krige.
“He competes very well considering his height. I would think though that Francois Louw wins more turnover possession than Phil Waugh. Schalk and Duane are probably better ball-carriers than Francois. The fact that all three of them are big also helps the tight five.
“Francois plays to the ball a lot, while Schalk is in more of a playmaking role these days spreading the ball. He has good hands and skills.
“Duane plays back more and is excellent in the traditional role of No 8. They really complement one another well.”