Stormers legend Schalk Burger is determined to end his 13-year run at Newlands with a playoff victory against the Chiefs. JON CARDINELLI reports.
The Stormers will host the Chiefs in a Super Rugby quarter-final on Saturday. The Cape side will be looking to score their first playoff win since 2010. Burger, the long-serving captain, will be aiming to end his 13-year tenure at the iconic ground with a famous win.
Burger held court at Newlands on Thursday. The Springbok loose forward spoke about his desire to end this part of his career on a high. At the end of the 2016 Super Rugby tournament, Burger will take up a contract with Saracens in England.
Despite the magnitude and significance of the occasion, Burger maintained the laid-back, off-field persona that has defined him since day one at the Stormers. He did, however, assure reporters and by extension Stormers supporters that he will be giving his all in what should be his last appearance at Newlands.
‘When your former teammates start becoming your coaches, maybe that’s a sign that it’s time to move on,’ said Burger, who played alongside Robbie Fleck during the early stages of his tenure at the Stormers.
‘Look, this weekend is not all about me. It’s about this team and this opportunity we have against a quality side in the Chiefs. We play rugby for these chances to compete against the best teams on the big stage.
‘I’m expecting a big crowd at Newlands. I know I’ve been a favourite of theirs over the years, and it would be good to put in a great performance this Saturday. There’s life in these old bones yet.’
The weather could put paid to the Chiefs’ attacking ambitions. There’s been heavy rain in Cape Town this week, and more is forecast for the game on Saturday.
Burger and Fleck said the Stormers planned to play positive rugby. They did acknowledge that the Cape side’s game plan entailed playing for territory.
‘You miss something not playing the New Zealand sides. That’s what you want, to play teams stacked with All Blacks, and in New Zealand. But it is what it is,’ said Burger.
‘We’ve spoken about matching that intensity [of the Chiefs] this weekend. We have to be aggressive, especially up front. A lot is made about the Kiwis’ backs, but they are really tough in the forwards too. We will look to play in the right areas of the field.’
On Tuesday, Chiefs coach Dave Rennie said that the visitors would keep ball in hand regardless of the conditions. When this information was relayed to Fleck on Thursday, the Stormers coach took it to heart.
‘I don’t think they are bluffing at all. The weather shouldn’t deter them too much,’ said Fleck.
‘I like their attitude. It’s something we’d like to embrace. We will be ready for them this weekend. Let’s see what happens.’
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