Vodacom Stormers flank Schalk Burger has tasted competitive rugby again. And now he wants more.
Burger played his first game in six months on Saturday at Loftus in Pretoria, where his team went down 25-19 against the Vodacom Bulls in a warm-up match for the Vodacom Super 14.
The blonde Springbok played 55 minutes and according to reports he showed exactly why the national team cannot afford to be without him at the World Cup in France later this year.
Burger showed no effects of the neck surgery he underwent after sustaining the injury in a test against Scotland in Port Elizabeth.
He immediately got stuck in and according to reports was a thorn in the flesh of the Bulls, particularly on the ground.
The fact that the normally one-eyed Loftus crowd gave him a standing ovation when he left the field is a sign of the respect Burger commands in SA rugby.
“Yes, it probably would never ever again happen in a WP or Stormers jersey,” quipped Burger after the game.
“It feels nice to be back,” he added. “It was a very hard game and just the way I wanted to start my season.
“There is nothing wrong with my neck, but the rest of my body is a bit stiff. I was a bit nervous before the game, but it changed quite quickly.
“As soon as you start playing, you stopped thinking about those things.”
Stormers assistant coach Jerome Paarwater also proclaimed satisfaction about Burger’s effort upon his return. “Yes, the old Schalk is back,” said the former WP flank.
“He was very good and didn’t experience any trouble with his neck. He complained about a bit of stiffness, but that is understandable if a player was out for such a long period.”
Two Vodacom Stormers teams tackle Boland at Faure Street Stadium in Paarl on Saturday in their final warm-up matches before the Super 14 competition starts with an away game against the Cheetahs on 3 February.