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Schalk Burger blow by blow


Schalk Burger has explained exactly how a pre-season calf strain eventually resulted in him ending up in intensive care fighting off bacterial meningitis.

Mon, 03 Jun 2013 12:31

The Springbok flank has not played since February 2012, and as a result has been the subject of much speculation, with his comeback postponed a few times due to a series of complications.

He addressed the media at Newlands on Monday and gave a full explanation of how a calf injury led to an operation on a cyst near his spine which in turn resulted in serious illness.

“Obviously there has been a lot of speculation but basically what happened was I started training with the Stormers at the beginning of this year and I felt reasonably good.

“After a while, in about 40 minutes of training or so, probably the equivalent of about 3km of running, I felt some spasticity in my left calf and when that happened I started to pull up because I was scared that I would tear or pull my calf muscle.

“Eventually I went for a back scan and it showed up that I had a cyst in my back right next to my spinal chord. I went in for an operation to relieve the pressure by draining the cyst, and unfortunately I picked up a hospital bug which led to bacterial meningitis,” he said.

Burger admitted that there were a few nervous moments for his family as he fought off the meningitis in isolation.

“There was a critical stage for about four, nearly five days in which there was a lot of uncertainty. Obviously through that period I was in isolation and I was seriously ill, so ill in fact that some people around me thought ‘this is it’.”

“Luckily I got through that and also draining the cyst wasn’t good enough so they had to come up with a new gameplan and that was actually removing the cyst.

“Unfortunately after that I had to have another three back operations. Where I am at now is that I am busy recovering, the cyst has been removed completely so I am just recovering from the bacterial meningitis,” he explained.

The Stormers stalwart said that the unkown ‘hospital bug’ that he contracted during the initial operation to drain the cyst had simply been a case of bad luck which could have happened to anyone else.

“I contracted a bug which led to bacterial meningitis, but they couldn’t pinpoint exactly what bug it was. I was basically lying in isolation in a room and not able to do much.

“I hade headaches, nausea and I was getting quite a lot of convulsions – not quite seizures but it was certainly close – so I was seriously ill and that was just unfortunate.

“I suppose when you make a hole anywhere there is the chance of infection and getting a bug. That was the serious part, and that happened just after the first procedure so it was just bad luck on my behalf,” he said.

The cyst, which has been there for about the last ten years, has since been completely removed and Burger said that he is grateful that it was identified before it did any long-term damage.

“No-one is really sure what it is about, but it could be trauma-related so it could have been a rugby injury. But it was there for a long time – approximately ten years.

“I am thankful that they caught it at that stage, because if they hadn’t it could have done some long-term damage.

“The bunch of neurosurgeons working on my case decided to have a look. They drained the cyst and analysed the contents thereof, which was benign, there was nothing serious.

“Then I fell ill and I think that influenced the way I was healing so after my illness they decided to remove it completely,” he said.

Burger hopes to return to the playing field once he recovers fully from the meningitis, which could be later this year, and joked that the Stormers’ form this season is not helping the speed of his recuperation.

“I can understand now why coaches lose hair, go grey and get pretty uptight. I think it has been a year of near-misses, I don’t think we have had any luck on or off the pitch.

“I hope for my health they start winning because my nerves and my fingernails haven’t lasted too well this year,” he quipped.

By Michael de Vries

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The hard-earned triumph consolidated their position at the top of the South African conference, but their struggle for bonus points (they could only score three tries at Coca-Cola Park) is also ensuring, at present, that they are losing a bit of ground on the overall table to pace-setting teams in the New Zealand and Australian conferences.

Not only did the Crusaders and Reds – who were marginally above the Stormers even before the latest round –earn full-house victories this weekend, but the dark horse Blues did that trick too, meaning that they are a third team to have nosed ahead of the Cape franchise in points terms on the full ladder.

The Crusaders and Reds each boast 35 points from eight matches, the Blues have 34 and the Stormers 33.

Of course each conference winner is assured of at least one home match in the eventual finals series, but the worst-placed one of the trio doesn’t march straight to a guaranteed semi-final: they have to play a nasty little extra “sudden death qualifier” against one of the three lesser teams also making the six-team finals cut.

The Stormers will probably argue, and not without reason, that much rugby remains to be played and their team and management certainly all seemed chipper enough about leaving the Highveld with the four basic win points ahead of their overdue bye next weekend.

But another factor to consider is that the Sharks, who had an off-duty round this weekend, now lie only four points adrift of last year’s beaten finalists in second spot on the SA log — despite having lost three times in eight matches to the Stormers’ once.

Keeping them well in the hunt, however, is that they boast five bonus points to the Stormers’ miserly one, which effectively amounts to an extra win.

So as early as next weekend they have an opportunity to edge ahead of Schalk Burger’s men (albeit having played an extra game by then) if they earn maximum points at home against one of the weakest New Zealand links at present, the Hurricanes.

Then, a week later, there is another titanic meeting of the leading South African sides at Newlands, with the Sharks no doubt hell-bent on avenging their loss at Mr Price Kings Park much earlier this month.

So the importance of a healthy bonus points situation cannot be discounted, and the Stormers will be quietly kicking themselves, even as they deservedly celebrate downing the Lions, for winning by “TKO” again rather than the Full Monty.

Certainly they had some golden opportunities to add to their tally in the try department: Gio Aplon once opted to go inside – and was somehow held up short of the line — when he had Conrad Jantjes unmarked on his outside for a near-certain touchdown, and how Juan de Jongh failed to score in the 77th minute after some slightly over-elaborate stepping and then a fatal slip, only he will know.

Still, the Stormers can enjoy their mini-break in a satisfying position, especially with the prime objective of simply atoning for the Reds hiccup achieved.

They always seemed that little bit better and more composed, even when the Lions occasionally hurled the kitchen sink at them, and it must be kept in mind that this win was achieved after some upheaval in the influential flyhalf position.

First Peter Grant pulled out injured a couple of days ahead of the fixture, and then in the 13th minute of the game itself young stand-in Gary van Aswegen, after a sprightly personal start, hobbled off himself.

At least Lionel Cronje, hurried into the fray off the bench, confirmed that he has something about him, occasionally dictating play quite nicely and kicking well off the tee, even if he had some careless moments as well.

But with the ever-challenging Antipodean tour still ahead of the Stormers, a couple of extra points via the bonus route might have come in very handy as a cushion at this stage of the competition …

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