Schalk Burger says he is relishing a new ‘challenge’ at Saracens after the highly decorated South African international joined the club’s preseason training earlier this week.
The World Cup winning flanker has moved to north London to join the reigning Aviva Premiership Rugby and European Rugby Champions Cup Champions after a 14-year career in Cape Town with Western Province and Stormers, as one of five summer recruits to Mark McCall’s double-winning side.
Renowned as one of world rugby’s finest back row forwards, Burger has captained South Africa during his stellar 12-year international career and is a former IRB World Player of the year. He has won 86 caps for the Springboks and holds the record for the most tries (14) for a back row forward for his country. Burger arrives at Saracens after a spell with Japanese club Suntory Sungoliath and a long association with Super Rugby’s, Stormers.
On his move to Saracens, Burger said: “My international career was coming to an end and I thought that Saracens was a great place to go. With the South African influence here and the group of English talent that runs throughout the organisation, the whole culture of club is a good fit for me and my family.
“You can get to a certain stage in your career where you want to change things a bit, so for the last two years with the Stormers I had a dual contract with them and Suntory in Japan, so the next step for me was that I needed to challenge myself again.
“It really is a nice challenge for me. Moving to England is super exciting and it is something that I’ve always wanted to do. I’m settling in as quickly as possible, and it’ll probably be a few more weeks until I’m completely settled. It’s still a bit helter-skelter, I haven’t moved into my new home yet and my family is still back in South Africa but it’s been great to come into Saracens and start the process of settling in. I’m learning all the time, how Saracens want to play rugby and how they do things off the pitch.”
One of the game’s most recognisable players, Burger brings a wealth of experience to the Saracens’ squad and the 86-cap Springbok international reveals he is looking forward to playing alongside Saracens’ home grown talent who have been at the heart of England’s recent success under former Saracens’ Head Coach, Eddie Jones.
“Funnily enough I recognised quite a number of faces when I arrived,” said Burger. “There are quite a few guys who I’ve played with during my time with the Stormers over a decade ago, and I’d never thought I’d play rugby with them again so it’s been great to catch up with them. Mikey Rhodes came over last year, Brad Barritt I used to play against when he was based in Durban for The Sharks as did Al Hargreaves. Then there’s all of the English players and we’ve been watching how well they have been doing recently, especially with Eddie (Jones) in charge, so I know a good number of them but obviously there’s still a few more guys I need to get to know.”
On his move to Allianz Park, Burger added: “Saracens is where I wanted to come. I just want to come here and enjoy my rugby, that’s the main thing and I have to keep it that way. My main aim is not to get ahead of myself, and concentrate on my own game within the Saracens’ structures and be influential. You have to focus on yourself and try to adapt to how the team plays, find your niche in that team and play well. It’s also well documented that I’m good in the pub, so when the time is right I’ll hope to add value there too.”
Start the Aviva Premiership Rugby Season in style with two games from £25 at Twickenham. Saracens v Worcester Warriors and Harlequins v Bristol Rugby in the London Double Header, 3 September. Tickets available from ticketmaster.co.uk