Schalk The Legend – Newlands Hero In Emotional Interview On Leaving The Stormers
Story from: 2oceansvibe.com
It was way back when, 2003 in fact, that a wild-eyed Schalk Burger made his Western Province debut at Newlands.
Who would have thought back then that Schalla would spend 13 years gracing the hallowed turf with his presence, a run that’s set to come to an end when he heads over to Saracens in the U.K on a two-year contract at the end of the season.
Sport24 sat down with the legend, with the wide-ranging interview discussing everything from his debut through to how rugby has changed during his career.
We’ll just pull out a few gems from Schalk:
Super 12 in 2004 versus Super Rugby in 2016 … just how much has really changed?
It’s changed massively – it used to be a sprint, a 200m dash, three months start to finish. Now it has become a marathon, with much more of a league (feel)….For me the best Super Rugby era was Super 12, Super 14, round-robin format. You played everyone once, no conferences, and then semis for the top four and a final.
…I reckon the allure, in all the years of Super Rugby, is people coming down to Newlands to watch McCaw, Carter, the Brumbies stars of a certain period like Gregan, Larkham, some of the world’s best players … that’s why we used to average almost 50,000 people! It was always nice, vice-versa, for people in Christchurch to see De Villiers, Habana, Jaque Fourie, myself slugging it out against equivalent players they’ve got.
That’s the sad part … but you know, we’re accommodating more teams now, the competition’s got bigger and we had to come up with change.
Is there any single season, among the several truly competitive ones by the Stormers, where you particularly felt ‘we blew a great title chance’?
I think probably the period we were at our best was 2010, 2011 2012. I’m probably inclined to lean toward the first two. Unfortunately in 2010 we caught the Bulls teams at that point as perhaps the best in the world – really a year where all their guys were just superior, just at another level despite how good we were too…
That period was pretty much our prime; we had a lot more experience back then. But this current group is also a very young, exciting one. We are quickly learning, taking ownership of positions.
You are a “one-club” man in a South African context … was there ever a moment during the years where that status might have changed?
No, not really. I think if your name is Schalk Willem Petrus Burger and you’ve played for Western Province you are pretty much stuck here!
Take a bow good sir, but carrying on…
Obviously it stretches even before my first-class career; I played with a very successful U19 team here in 2002, plus the U21s. Sure, in Super Rugby terms there were some tough spells, like when we lost by that record 75-14 to the Bulls in Pretoria (2005) and there was a time, though quite briefly, when I wasn’t quite in my comfort zone.
A lot of players I grew up playing with left at around the same time, but then plenty of guys I grew up with, my generation, started getting increasing opportunities. So there were just a couple of years when you didn’t totally enjoy your rugby; being in Cape Town is a tough place when things aren’t going well for the rugby team.
What precisely does the Newlands stadium mean to you?
I think it has a unique flavour, Newlands. All the new stadiums have upgraded their facilities to big shower areas and stuff; here it is still quaint and awkward and looks much the same as the day I started here! Look, it comes a long way for me … you shouldn’t under-estimate the impact it had watching my dad train here (he represented a legendary Western Province team in the mid-1980s – Sport24); we always had season tickets for the old scholars’ area.
I so remember sitting on wet, muddy days in the winter supporting Province. Then I played my first kaalvoet game for Boland U13 at the ground. So from a young age I had the aspiration to eventually run out in boots onto this turf; it gets into your system. Not everyone gets as lucky as I’ve been to play here for so many years; some have to move on through career choices and stuff.
I love Newlands. People always ask me where the best atmosphere is, and when it’s packed I can always confidently say Newlands. The crowd is on top of you; the only place that comes close for me is the Millennium Stadium, though only when the roof is closed. But this is still the oldest international venue. Unfortunately no one knows how long it will be around for; we must just enjoy it while we still can.
We’ll stop there, because that’s a decent place to call it, but you can read the full interview HERE.
Schalla, thanks for all the memories – let’s just hope the Stormers give you a great send-off with a strong finish to the Super Rugby season.
Also, when are they going to make a movie about your life like they have with Richie McCaw? You know we’d watch it…
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