The Burger king

2015-04-19 15:00

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When Schalk Burger, with his shock of blond hair, first appeared on the scene it was said he had more energy and staying power than the Duracell bunny.

Rugby fans were struck by the superhuman work rate of the loose forward from Western Province but, as it turns out, there was a significant kernel of truth in comparing Burger to the bunny with a superior battery life.

Burger last week won the Laureus World Comeback of the Year award at a star-studded ceremony in China.

It was in recognition of his incredible return to the Springbok side after serious injury and a life-threatening illness. His courageous efforts were recognised when he was named Man of the Match after the test against England in November last year at Twickenham.

The Laureus awards have become known as the Oscars of sport and Burger’s story is one of the most inspirational of the year.

He had a cyst next to his spinal cord and went into hospital for treatment in 2013, but developed bacterial meningitis and was moved to intensive care. He was in isolation and in such a bad way that doctors called his parents to the hospital to say goodbye to him.

But he recovered and made a remarkable comeback, being picked for the Springbok squad to play against Australia and New Zealand in the Rugby Championship and retaining a place in the end-of-year tour.

“What Schalk has gone through in the last couple of years and what he has achieved makes it one of the most inspirational sporting stories in our recent history,” said SA Rugby Union president Oregan Hoskins.

“He has been an icon of inspiration and the fact that he always seems to have a smile on his face, makes it even more joyous to watch him in action,” he added.

Burger’s Stormers and Western Province coach Allister Coetzee agreed: “I don’t think people realise exactly what Schalk went through in 2012 and 2013, first with his knee injury and then his illness.

“He is the ultimate warrior and just to get back into the game after his setbacks, never mind what he has achieved since then, speaks volumes about the man’s character,” he said.

The 16th Laureus World Sports Awards, which recognise sporting achievements during last year, is the premier honours event on the international sporting calendar. The winners are voted for by the Laureus World Sports Academy, which is made up of 50 of the world’s greatest sportsmen and sportswomen.

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