Springbok flank Schalk Burger would have made an excellent linebacker in American football.
The Minnesota Vikings are eight yards away from clinching the NFC North title. MVP running back Adrian Peterson tucks the rock away and sets his sights on the first down marker. All that stands in his way is Green Bay wrecking ball, Schalk Burger. The strongside linebacker is tasked with stopping the NFL’s premier running back, and keeping the NFC North title in Wisconsin.
Bring it on AP, the Incredible Schalk is waiting!
Let’s take a step back from the Hollywood script and have a closer look at Burger and his NFL counterpart, Packers linebacker Clay Matthews.
Matthews is regarded as one of the most terrifying players coming off the edge (blitzing from a wide position). He strikes fear into quarterbacks with his shuddering power-to-weight ratio. While Burger may not be the athlete he once was, his raw intensity and willingness to lay his body on-the-line is perfect for the strongside linebacker position (similar in some ways to openside flanker) where setting the edge against lead-blockers by sacrificing yourself for the good of the team is part of the job description.
Both these goliaths are team leaders in their own right. Matthews is widely regarded as the best outside linebacker in the NFL. He leads from the front every down with a thirst for making big plays. That may not be the only reason he looks thirsty – the Claymaker’s water-splashing-hair-wetting sideline manoeuvre is a trademark around the league.
His rugby equivalent, Schalla, shot to fame in 2004, tackling for two and wreaking havoc at the point of contact. Not to be outdone by Matthews’ nice nickname, Schalla was dubbed 'The Incredible Schalk', as a tribute to his immense contribution on the rugby field. It is said that the best defensive players in the NFL are known as ‘game wreckers’, well that perfectly describes Schalk Burger on a rugby field. When he’s on fire, he is unstoppable. He simply will not be denied …
But enough of the backstory, let's get back to the action…
Adrian Peterson jump-cuts out of a closing hole to the right of Vikings centre John Sullivan, leaving Green Bay middle linebacker AJ Hawk clutching at thin air. The running back swivels right, slip-streaming behind pulling left guard Charlie Johnson, who is rumbling towards the edge like a two-ton earthmover.
Peterson bites down hard on his mouthguard as he spies Burger coming into view over Johnson's shoulder. The lead-blocking guard sinks at the hips, ready to enforce a 20kg weight advantage, multiplied by his momentum.
Schalk couldn’t care less. A wry smile breaks across his face as he beats Johnson to a lower body height and explodes upwards, forearms-first, into the guard, stunning Johnson and shedding the block.
Peterson’s eyes go wide as his lead-blocker is nullified by Burger's power and technique – now there’s nowhere to hide!
It's like watching a car-crash in slow motion. The Incredible Schalk accelerates two steps forward and, like a medieval knight charging into a joust, lowers his helmet to chest height as he thunders into Peterson with a Superman dive-tackle, halting the purple running machine dead in his tracks.
The hit warps the time-space continuum as the commentator jumps to his feet, screaming: 'AP is short! AP is short! What a play by Burger! Green Bay wins the NFC North!'