“So, the body (and face) has finally had enough. They’ve been begging me to stop playing for a while now and the time has come”…these were the defining last words of Saracens forward Jacques Burger when he announced his retirement from the game a few weeks ago.
The 32-year-old Namibian legend announced that it was time to hang up his well worn boots after playing in three World Cups and forged a reputation as one of the hardest players around.
We were very privileged to have the honour of interviewing Jacques only days after his last game at Allianz Park for his beloved Saracens, and to make things even more special we invited some friends of ours to post questions to the man from Windhoek and this is what he had to say…
- Where did you spend your life growing up? Grew up in Windhoek.
- When did you discover the amazing game of rugby? My dad loved to go to this amateur rugby club and I always used to go with him. Got to be in the lockers when the guys got ready. Loved the atmosphere and smell of deep heat.
- Why did you leave Namibia to play rugby in South Africa? Well Rugby is fully amateur in Namibia and I wanted to be a professional player so had to chase the dream.
- “In your early playing days, did you ever have any thoughts of holding out on an International cap and playing for the Springboks instead one day?” Tom Sizeland, SA Cricket Magazine No never. Always supported and loved the Springboks but I am Namibian and a very proud one. It would feel wrong to represent someone else.
- What made you leave South Africa to pursue a career in the UK besides money? Just the life experience and an opportunity to see the world.
- “Who was the one person that tackled you the hardest?” Tyrone Barnard, AllThingsJabu.co.za I can’t think of any but in the Teat Match before the World cup 2007 against the Boks I got hit allot in the breakdowns. The likes of Bakkies, Juan Smith and Schalk Burger made it a long day for me.
- “How many times have you broken your nose?” Johan le Roux, Sports Broadcaster I love the question, would guess around 5/6 times.
- “What was the most difficult time in your career and why?” Xola Magwaza, SuperSport Blitz My time at the Bulls was a great learning curve but would’ve liked more game time. They had a settled squad and I came in as a 26 year old. It made me hungrier and improved me as a player. I felt I was good enough to play more but was hard breaking through as an outsider.
- “What other position would you have chosen to play if you got the chance and what playing partner would you have wanted?” Shaun Lilford, Judgerugby.co.za Probably 12. Still a very physical position and you get to play ball a bit more. Would love to have Manu Tuilagi as my 13.
- “What was your most emotional moment in rugby?” Breyton Paulse, Former Springbok Playing in one then captaining my country to 2 more world cups was pretty special. Also the 2 Premierships I won with Saracens were very special.
- “What do you believe should be done for Namibia to reach the next level in World Rugby?” Bendon Brash, SABC Sports We need better development systems for youngsters, pro coaches, better facilities and obviously need money to make the game professional. Working 8-5 and playing a bit of rugby every other eve just won’t get you anywhere. Also need to make sure we keep politics out of our sport. We have so much talent in Namibia and the opportunities would give them great exposure.
- “In your farewell letter you mentioned you were obsessed with rugby and you will break for it, does this now mean the game you love so dearly has lost you forever?” Ajee Valentine, Steinhoff You never know? No I want to coach and stay involved. Been coached by world class coaches and played with super international players so would be selfish to not invest in Namibian rugby. I love the game too much to just walk away.
- “Do you plan on giving something back to Namibian Rugby?” Sias du Plessis, CCTV News Sports Corresponded I want to start charity clinics in less fortunate areas and invest in our youngsters. Would love to set up coaching clinics throughout Namibia and Africa. I want to coach a school near my farm and try and make them a well established rugby school. Help with their facilities, coaching systems, maybe be their link to European and South African clubs. So much to do so I better get on it.
We want to thank Jacques for this amazing opportunity to speak to him and we wish him, his wife and two children all the best for the future!