Springbok and DHL Western Province flank Schalk Burger was delighted on Thursday to learn that he will be able to return to training at the High Performance Centre after a long absence and a difficult year in which in addition to injury, he also suffered serious illness that forced him to be hospitalised for six weeks.
Burger visited a specialist on Wednesday for tests and has been given the green light to return to training immediately, although it is going to take a while still before he can play again.
Burger said in a press release on Thursday that he didn’t want to put a timing on his return to the playing field, but it would appear likely that it will be before the end of the season.
“To give a timeline is quite difficult. I certainly don’t want to over-commit,” said Burger.
“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 reasses things again in a month’s time.”
Burger, 30, has played 32 games for DHL Western Province and a further 88 matches for the DHL Stormers. He made his provincial debut in 2003 and his Super Rugby debut in 2004.
However he hasn’t played since leading the Stormers in the first match of the 2012 Super Rugby season – in other words, he’s been off the field for 18 months.
In that game, against the Hurricanes, he was forced from the field early with a serious knee injury. There were troubles with the diagnosis of the injury and although initially Burger was supposed to return in a matter of months, his comeback date kept on being put back.
While it was the knee injury that kept him out for the duration of 2012, it has been a different story this year.
He was back in training when the Stormers started the build-up to the 2013 Super Rugby season over the summer months, and coach Allister Coetzee was confident enough that he would make a full comeback that he named him as his captain for the season.
However a calf muscle injury ruled him out before the pre-season friendlies and then continued difficulties kept him sidelined.
A cyst was then detected which was pressing on his spine, thus causing the calf discomfort, and it was during an operation to remove the cyst that he contracted bacterial meningitis in late March.
Burger was in a serious condition in a Cape Town hospital ICU over the Easter weekend, and spent the next six weeks in hospital and a further eight indoors.
However he has popped into the High Performance Centre in Bellville a few times and has been spotted around Newlands, and looks to be regaining his health.
With Wednesday’s visit to the specialist bringing the good news that the cyst that was causing the complications has gone, Burger will now be able to throw himself fully into regaining his strength through gym work before targeting a return to field training.