Jacques Burger’s illustrious career will come to an end against Newcastle Falcons on Sunday and the Saracens star has released a heartfelt letter explaining just how much the sport means to him.
Burger is an Aviva Premiership Rugby great and has been a cornerstone of Saracens’ side as they have become one of the sport’s European powerhouses.
The 32-year-old has made his mark on the international scene as well as domestically, competing in three World Cups and being named as one of the top five players at the 2011 tournament.
Capable of playing anywhere across the back row, Burger has been symbolic of Saracens’ ‘wolf pack’ mentality and in 2013 broke the record for most tackles in an Aviva Premiership Rugby game with 37.
But his dedication to the cause has seen him suffer with injuries and the flanker has decided to call time on his rugby career after the game at Allianz Park on Sunday and return to his native Namibia to become a farmer.
In an open letter on Saracens’ website, Burger said: “So, the body (and face) have finally had enough. They've been begging me to stop playing for a while now and the time has come.
“I’ve loved playing the game of rugby. I am blessed to have done so at a high level. Big defeats, big victories, cup finals and three Rugby World Cups. I was obsessed with rugby, I lived for it and was willing to break for it.
“What sticks out for me? The sick feeling that consumes you before a big match. The hairs standing up on the back of your neck in pre-match talks, guys screaming at each other and the sound of a big collision between two players. The emotions, the atmospheres, the camaraderie between a group of players. All will live long in the memory.
“What I love about this game is that there’s no hiding. To play it you need to be brave, sometimes a bit brutal, but when you walk off you shake hands and act like kids again.
“But the most important thing I’ll take away from my career, and the thing I’m most grateful for, is the friends I've made whilst being on this journey.
“All the success means nothing if you can’t celebrate it with your buddies after the match. That first cold beer after you've put in a shift together is the best feeling around. Those memories will stick forever.
“I’ve been overwhelmed by all the messages of support I have received and I am truly humbled.
“May I take this opportunity to say a big thank you to everyone who has supported me throughout my career. It’s been a period of my life that has had highs and lows, but that support has always been there. I’m sure in the future there will be tough times, but when I'm done and when I’m missing the game, I can look back on this wonderful period of my life with real pride and affection.
“I’m very excited about what the future holds, but until then and for one last time this Sunday….
“Let's go to work.”
Saracens have already cemented their place in a seventh straight Aviva Premiership Rugby semi-final and have won their last five matches in all competitions.
Newcastle Falcons go into the contest having not won away from home in the league since October 2014 but will head to north London in buoyant mood after their crucial victory over London Irish two weeks ago.
Newcastle’s 13-6 win over basement side London Irish looks to be pivotal to the club’s season as they increased the gap between the sides to seven points with only two regular season games remaining.
But with potentially ten up for grabs, Adam Powell stressed Newcastle ’s bid to avoid bottom spot is far from over and stated his side are also keen to have their say at the other end of the Aviva Premiership Rugby table this weekend.
Powell said: “The London Irish match was a big game with big implications and we got the result we wanted. But we’ve still got two games to go to get the job done. There was a feeling of relief though, after we dug in and got the victory.
“The defence certainly rose to the task in the last ten minutes, there was a big effort from the lads and it shows the belief we have.
“There’s a reason you want to play against the best teams – you want to test yourself against them and it’s an opportunity for us to go to Saracens and throw the cat among the pigeons.”
Allianz Park, 3.15pm – Live on BT Sport
Referee: Ian Tempest (18th Premiership game).
Assistant Referees: Phil Watters & Roy Maybank.
TMO: David Grashoff.
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