Schalk Burger says Siya Kolisi was always destined for greatness and that he is now more than just the leader of the Springboks.
Speaking to the South China Morning Post at a sponsor’s event in Hong Kong, the 36-year-old was questioned about the viral image that had re-emerged on social media, depicting a young Kolisi getting an autograph from his hero Burger. Who would have imagined that the duo from Port Elizabeth would later become provincial and national teammates – let alone both go on to lift the Webb Ellis Cup in the No 6 jersey.
— SA Rugby magazine (@SARugbymag) October 31, 2019
‘That’s a crazy photo, man. I mean it looks like it’s 40 years ago … by the way, I’ve aged,’ joked Burger, as he was shown the image.
The former Stormers and Saracens loose forward, who retired from international rugby at the conclusion of 2015 World Cup in England, spoke passionately about the importance of Kolisi’s well-known story.
‘I suppose in life you need heroes. I had heroes when I grew up and Siya obviously looked up to me. I remember being there at the signing session but I didn’t know it was Siya Kolisi until the photo came up.’
Burger would later cross paths with Kolisi at club level and described himself as bouncing up and down for the final quarter of the World Cup final, as he watched the Boks upset Eddie Jones’ in-form England at Yokohama Stadium.
‘To see his development as a player and leader of the Springboks and now a leader within South Africa … it’s been massive for him and that’s got nothing to do with me,’ commented Burger. ‘He was always going to make it. He was always talented – we just passed on a bit of knowledge and experience from the mistakes we learned in rugby over the years.’
Photo: Steve Haag/Gallo Images