Burden back in starting line-up against the Bulls

2013-08-29 00:00

CRAIG Burden is the most patient of hookers and has spent much of his Sharks career on the replacement bench, but coach Brad Macleod-Henderson says he will be back in the starting line-up for the Currie Cup game against the Blue Bulls at King’s Park on Saturday evening.

The Sharks team will be named today but Macleod-Henderson said that “Craig has been good off the bench and will get his chance against the Bulls”, replacing Kyle Cooper.

The 28-year-old Burden spent his early years at wing and centre before Sharks coach Dick Muir turned him into a hooker in 2006. For years he played his rugby in the shadow of John Smit and Bismarck du Plessis, only playing regularly in the Currie Cup when the two Springbok hookers were away.

His constant selection as a replacement could have left him frustrated and bitter, but he was happy with his lot.

“I was learning a new trade from two of the best in the business,” he said of Smit and Bismarck du Plessis and those years on the bench.

A bustling, exceptionally quick forward, he enjoyed an excellent run last year. He was drafted into the Springbok squad as the third-choice hooker following the serious knee injury suffered by Du Plessis and travelled the world with the Rugby Championship squad without earning a cap.

This year the in-form Cooper was preferred as first-choice hooker and Burden’s Super Rugby season ended early in May when he returned home early from the Australasian tour after suffering damage to a nerve in the neck, which resulted in the loss of strength in one arm.

Months of rehab and hard work have paid off and he is now back to full fitness — and about to return to the starting line-up.

“No it hasn’t been a frustrating year,” he said in Durban this week.

“I think Coops [Cooper] has been playing really well.

“So there’s going to be a fight for the jersey every weekend. There’s a lot of depth in the squad and the players are wanting to prove themselves. I think that’s one of the strengths of this team. You just have to go out there and make the most of the opportunities you get.”

Burden said the Bulls would be bristling after their 62-23 thrashing by the Lions at Loftus at the weekend.

“We know the Bulls will be coming out firing after what happened to them. They’ll have something to prove as well, so we’re expecting a full 80-minute game. We’re looking forward to it. Our defence really carried us through at the end against the Cheetahs last Friday night and I think it’s going to be a similar case this weekend with the defence playing a big role.”

The Bulls yesterday included Junior World Cup flyhalf Handré Pollard in their line-up and the talented youngster will make his Currie Cup debut as a replacement for the injured Tony Jantjies.

Francois Venter and Travis Ismaiel are also injured and former Sharks centre Waylon Murray and wing Akona Ndungane, over his hamstring strain, will start.

Tighthead Frik Kirsten is also back after being ruled out of the last two matches.

Kick-off is at 5.05 pm on Saturday.


15 Jürgen Visser, 14 Sampie Mastriet, 13 Waylon Murray, 12 Ulrich Beyers, 11 Akona Ndungane, 10 Handré Pollard, 9 Ruan Snyman, 8 Jono Ross (captain), 7 Jacques du Plessis, 6 Wiaan Liebenberg, 5 Grant Hattingh, 4 Paul Willemse, 3 Frik Kirsten, 2 Mbongeni Mbonambi, 1 Morné Mellett Replacements: 16 Bandise Maku, 17 Werner Kruger, 18 David Bullbring, 19 Jacques Engelbrecht, 20 Rudy Paige, 21 Tiaan Schoeman, 22 Clayton Blommetjies.

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