In a feature that appeared in the February issue of SA Rugby magazine, we caught up with former Cheetahs and Blitzboks player Philip Burger.
A flying wing in his heyday, Philip Burger won three Currie Cup titles with the Free State Cheetahs, in 2005, 2006 (shared) and 2007. He then joined Perpignan for the 2008-09 season and won the Top 14 title with the French club.
‘Winning the Currie Cup three times in a row was a major highlight of my career,’ Burger says. ‘We took a lot of time to win the Currie Cup again [having last done so in 1976] and then managed to get a three-peat.’
Burger says his best season for the Cheetahs came in 2006 when the team shared the Currie Cup with the Bulls (the final in Bloemfonfein was drawn after extra time).
‘We claimed the win because they kicked the ball out at the end,’ Burger says with a laugh.
‘They did not want to win the game.’ In 2006, Burger also helped the Springbok Sevens win tournaments in Dubai, Wellington and Paris, and was the top try-scorer at the George Sevens.‘We did not do as well as the guys are doing now,’ Burger admits.
‘In those days you were still contracted to a provincial union. They flew you in, you played sevens and then you went back to your union.
‘The systems Marius [Schoeman], Paul [Delport] and Neil [Powell] have put in place there are really working well. The thing with Neil is that he is really relaxed on game day and has got the balance right with his team.’
Burger says it was difficult for him and wife Marinda to move to France soon after getting married. ‘But learning the language makes the world of difference,’ he adds.
‘To win the Top 14 title was great. Back then I was only one of a few players to have won both the Currie Cup and the French league. That was before guys like Bakkies Botha and Bryan Habana came to France.’
After injuring his knee in a motorcycle accident, Burger called time on his career in 2012, but says he left the game with no regrets.
LIFE AFTER RUGBY
After retiring, Burger took up a job with Kyocera in Bloemfontein as a salesperson and he still works there.
‘Back in 2003, when I did not have a contract in Bloem, I started selling copiers to make ends meet. I started learning the business. When I stopped playing rugby it was an obvious choice to go into that line of work. It doesn’t make it easier to close deals when people know you are a former rugby player, but it does help to open doors.’
Burger married Marinda in 2007 and they have three daughters, Rumé, Lilly and Zylie.
‘The oldest, Rumé, is a very good young athlete, Lilly is a gymnast, and we are not really sure about little Zylie yet,’ says Burger.
‘We love to do different sports activities. We run and are a very active family. We enjoy the outdoors too.’
By Dylan Jack