Will Saracens’ Schalk remain a Bok?

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The 32-year-old Springbok loose forward has signed a two-year contract with English club Saracens on Monday, and will bade farewell to the Stormers at the end of this season’s Super Rugby competition.

Burger is currently playing for Suntory Sungoliath in Japan, but will also bring that chapter of his career to an end in order to move to Allianz Park in north-west London.

He is set to link up with the Stormers for one last shot at an elusive Super Rugby title under new interim coach Robbie Fleck at the end of the Japanese club season in early March.

Burger was one of the key components of the Springboks’ Rugby World Cup campaign last October in the UK, which ultimately ended in heartbreak with a 20-18 semi-final defeat to the All Blacks.

His ability to play all three loose-trio positions make him an ideal signing for Saracens, with stalwart former South African Ernst Joubert and Namibian World Cup captain Jacques Burger both retiring from rugby at the end of the season.

One of Schalk Burger’s main motivations to move to Saracens was to play in Europe’s top competition, the European Cup. “I’m extremely excited to have the opportunity to play in both the Aviva Premiership and the European Cup, two of the leading competitions in world rugby for such a special club,” he said in a statement on the Saracens website.

“It’s an exciting challenge for me and my family, and hopefully I can add a lot of value both on and off the field to an already successful group of players and coaches. I’m looking forward to playing alongside my new teammates and playing in front of all the Saracens fans and getting to know everyone at Allianz Park.”

Burger has played 86 Tests for the Springboks, and it remains to be seen whether he will still be part of the plans of the next national coach, with the South African Rugby Union expected to announce Heyneke Meyer’s successor within a month or two.

With the likes of Victor Matfield, Jean de Villiers and others retiring from Test rugby after the World Cup, Burger may follow suit. Matfield is currently also playing in England for Northampton, while De Villiers joined Leicester.

Burger will have a number of familiar faces in the Saracens squad around him, such as former Stormers teammates Schalk Brits, Neil de Kock and Michael Rhodes, as well as ex-Sharks Brad Barritt and Alastair Hargreaves.

The club has had strong South African connections since the advent of professional rugby in 1996, with the likes of Francois Pienaar, Edward Griffiths and Brendan Venter all involved in different capacities, from captain to coach and CEO. Businessman Johann Rupert, who is closely associated with the Burger family, also owns 50 percent of Saracens.

“Schalk is a Springbok legend, and will add a huge amount of experience and quality to our young English pack of forwards at the club,” Saracens director of rugby Mark McCall said in a statement.

“We have always talked about having the right blend of experience and youth in our squad, so to be able to add one of the world’s finest players to the group is extremely exciting news.

“By the beginning of next season we will have lost two highly experienced back-row forwards in Ernst Joubert and Jacques Burger, so to have a player of Schalk’s calibre coming into the squad is fantastic news.

“He is a man who has achieved everything there is to achieve in the game of rugby. Not only is he a fine rugby player, he is a humble and down-to-earth guy who we believe we will fit into the Saracens environment.”

ashfak.mohamed@inl.co.za

@IndyCapeSport

Original source: Will Saracens’ Schalk remain a Bok?

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