May 22, 2015
Burger & Du Plessis to join 100 Club
Saracens duo Jacques Burger and Petrus Du Plessis will run out on Saturday for their 100th appearance for the club when they face Northampton Saints in the Aviva Premiership semi-final.
Both Burger and Du Plessis have been mainstays of the Saracens squad since 2010, when the then unheralded and widely unknown duo joined the club from the Blue Bulls and Nottingham, respectively.
Since then, both have become key members of the squad, with Burger establishing himself as one of the most recognisable and respected openside’s operating in Europe and Du Plessis underlining his durability and reliability as one of the country’s most consistent tighthead’s.
Loose forward Burger’s milestone of a century of games for the club could arguably been achieved with the most physical sacrifice from any of the Allianz Park outfit’s 100 Club members.
The Namibian’s trials and tribulations with injury have been well-documented, bloodied yet unbowed, the abrasive flanker's no-nonsense approach to the game continues to inspire his side and the Sarries faithful against all-odds.
Burger’s performances in Saracens Premiership winning season in 2010/11 immediately catapulted him into the spotlight (he won the club’s Player of the Season Award), with his inspirational display for minnows Namibia in to 2011 Rugby World Cup adding to the flanker’s burgeoning reputation. Unfortunately his service for his country came at some cost, with a career threatening knee injury.
Yet Burger battled back and made his long awaited return to action after a prolonged spell on the sideline’s in 2013, and what a return it turned out to be.
Burger carved his name into Rugby folklore, breaking the Premiership tackle record away to Exeter Chiefs in 2013, when he made an astonishing 36 tackles in a tight win at Sandy Park.
Few will forget Burger’s rampaging performance in Saracens demolition of Clermont Auvergne at Twickenham in the Heineken Cup semi-final, where Burger made 27 ferocious tackles in a display that cemented Burger’s status as the embodiment of the Saracens “Wolf-Pack”.
On achieving his Saracens milestone, Burger said: “As a player you can doubt yourself some times. Will I come back? Will I come back the same player? And I think a lot of people thought that about me too. It’s going to be so rewarding (to make 100 appearances), and it’s going to be pretty emotional. To think where I was two years ago, to be running out for my 100th appearance for the club in a game as massive as Saturday’s is very special.”
Burger’s good friend Petrus Du Plessis induction to the Saracens 100 Club is also another inspiring story. From turning out for amateur side Liverpool St Helens, Du Plessis has climbed the rungs of England Rugby’s ladder with spells at Orrell, Sedgley Park and Nottingham before joining Saracens in the midst of a front-row crisis in the 2009/10 season.
His performances in the front-row that campaign played a huge part in helping Saracens reach their first ever Premiership Final, with Leicester Tigers defeating the north Londoners at Twickenham.
Petrus, or ‘Parra’ as he is known around the club, was a substitute in Saracens Premiership triumph a year later when they lifted the Premiership title at Twickenham Stadium.
Since then, Du Plessis has once again come into show his undoubted worth, when Saracens were a few tightheads down at the beginning of the 2014/15 season and the English qualified front-rower hasn’t looked back since. Now cemented as one of the league’s finest scrummagers Du Plessis’ 100th cap is a fine example of the virtues of self-belief and hard-work.
On making his 100th appearance alongside his good friend Burger, Du Plessis said: “We started out just a month apart, so to be running out alongside each other for our 100th appearance, well you couldn’t have scripted it better. We’re ecstatic and I’m very proud to become a member of the 100 Club and join such an illustrious list of players.
“If you told me in 2008, when I was a full-time physio working for the NHS, that I would have joined Saracens and made 100 appearances for them, I’d have thought that was a pretty insane comment. So to be actually running out for my 100th game really is a fairy-tale story.”