The famous photo of Siya Kolisi the autograph hunter
IN CONVERSATION WITH SCHALK BURGER: Watch as a 2007 World Cup winner shares the moment in an illustrious 86-Test career when a World Cup-winning captain asked him for an autograph.
Schalk Willem Petrus Burger, in conversation with the historian and author Dean Allen, shared the incredible story of his life – including his near-death experience.
The chat, in support of the Chris Burger and Petro Jackson Players Fund, brought to light a picture of the 2019 World Cup-winning Springbok captain Siyamthanda Kolisi asking Burger for his autograph.
The event was in June 2006 – at a Bok practice session in Port Elizabeth.
The team had a signing session after their training run at Kolisi’s school, Grey High, in preparation for their Test against Scotland at the Boet Erasmus – a match they won 29-15.
“That photo came up many years later and Siya Kolisi came to me in the dressing room and said: ‘Schalk, this is me’,” Burger revealed in an extensive hour-long discussion about his career.
“He [Kolisi] moved to Cape Town in 2010 and because we play in the same position [loose forward] we ended up spending a lot of time together.”
Burger described Kolisi as a “good enough” player that was always going to play for the Springboks.
“I spent a lot of time working with Siya,” he said, adding: “In those days he sat on the [Stormers and Western Province] bench behind Duane Vermeulen, Francois Louw and myself. He was the super-sub.
“It is not often you see photos like that going around.
“The latter part of my career I played a lot with Siya in the same loose trio.
“It is phenomenal to see his development.”
He also shared the incredible story of his life, including a near-death experience.
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Not only was there the career-threatening neck injury against Scotland in 2006 that required surgery and a fusion, at the age of 23, but much worse was to come.
The scariest moment in his life was in 2013.
“In 2012 I nearly had a career-ending left knee injury,” Burger said, adding: “Three operations later I came back in 2013.”
He had constant problems with his leg, before a scan revealed an Arachnoid cyst to his spinal cord that could have caused paralysis.
They had to drain the cyst and he then picked up bacteria in the hospital that took him to the brink of death – through bacterial meningitis.
He revealed the time when the doctors called his family to come say their final farewells, because they feared he would not recover.
However, he did recover, but it required another four operations and four months in hospital to resolve the issue with the cyst.
Burger also opened up about the infamous Kamp Staaldraad that broke the spirit of the Bok team at the 2003 World Cup.
He spoke about his Test debut in the World Cup game against Georgia at the Aussie Stadium in Sydney.
“It was weird circumstances,” Burger said, adding: “We went through Kamp Staaldraad.
“The whole atmosphere and the spirit of the team was just broken.
“My debut was obviously a proud moment and wanted to do the best I can.
“In the week [ahead of my debut] I snuck out for a bit of red wine and a steak. I felt like someone was following me and then I saw the team ‘bodyguard’ Adriaan Heyns – whom we named 0000 – he was sneaking [spying] on me.
“From an atmosphere perspective it wasn’t the greatest – the team was broken.”
He was twice named South African Player of the Year (in 2004 and 2011) and was named IRB Player of the Year in 2004.