All Blacks loose forward Liam Messam has agreed with Dan Carter’s assertion that Schalk Burger is one of the toughest players he has faced on the rugby field.
Carter last month hailed the former Springbok flank as one of the ‘toughest-minded’ players he has ever come up against.
Burger enjoyed an 86-Test career between 2003 and 2015, during which he faced the All Blacks 16 times, including in the 2015 World Cup semi-finals.
Writing in his column for The XV, Messam asserted that Burger was a fearless competitor on the field, but added that he was one of the nicest guys off it.
‘Dan Carter said that South African loosie Schalk Burger was the toughest player he’s ever faced on the rugby field and it’s hard to argue with that,’ Messam wrote. ‘That guy has zero fear and zero care for his body – he would just fly into things.
‘When I’m on the park, I always want to test myself against the biggest and the strongest guys and although there might be some monsters playing in the loosies now, no one could hit you harder than Schalk Burger.
‘I think in many ways he was sort of like the spiritual and emotional leader for the Springboks. He may not have made all the calls on the field, but he led those boys into battle. You could see when he put in a huge hit or made a crazy run that it would lift the whole team – and he was able to do that pretty often.
‘I’ve played against guys that are obviously physically tough but weren’t necessarily mentally tough. Burger didn’t have that problem – that man is a freak in all the right ways.
‘DC said he felt like he had a target on his back whenever he played against Burger, but I can tell you that Burger wasn’t afraid of causing some collateral damage and if you saw his name on the team sheet before a game, you knew you were going to be hurting the next day.
‘Honestly, though, he’s the nicest bloke off the field,’ Messam added. ‘I remember one match we were playing against the Springboks, I hit him high near the end of the game and South Africa kicked a penalty to steal the win. I was pretty dark after the final whistle but he was the first one that came up to me and told me not to dwell on it – it’s rugby and sometimes stuff like that happens. I felt like a right prick at the time because I’d lost us the Test match but he gave me a few words of encouragement to keep my chin up.’
Photo: Steve Bardens – World Rugby via Getty Images/World Rugby via Getty Images