May 01, 2016
Reaction: McCall pays tribute to Burger
Mark McCall praised retiring Saracens flanker Jacques Burger as his side booked a home Aviva Premiership semi-final with a 23-14 win over Newcastle Falcons.
Burger has battled back from a career-threatening knee injury and a lengthy spell on the sidelines to become an integral player in the Saracens quest for domestic and European glory this season and McCall is all to aware of the impact of the former Namibian captain.
“I sent Jacques a text during the week that said that words can’t portray the value that he has brought and they don’t really” said McCall. “Because you guys just see the Jacques Burger who is inspirational on the pitch and everyone agrees that he is the toughest and bravest rugby player that there is.
But you don’t know what he went through to play again. These ice machines became his best friend, the sacrifice that he had for hours and hours for two years. It is tough to do. There were some dark days during that period of time. Would he come back? I think Jacques is grateful to the club, the club stood by him when he was going to be out for a very long period of time but by miles it is the best decision the club has ever made. What he has given the club back has been remarkable really given where he was and just the person that he is.”
Saracens fought back from a 14-3 half-time deficit thanks to Jackson Wray double and a further score from Maro Itoje to take the win and ensure their semi-final will take place back on home soil.
Speaking after the game McCall said: “Clearly we weren’t near to where we wanted to be during the first half, kind of everything was wrong, the energy wasn’t right and the physicality wasn’t there. There was a few reasons for it, obviously last weekend took a lot out of us. We also didn’t train a lot this week, the players went to Europe for two or three days and had a phenomenal time.
I think we showed our experience in the second half to be able to turn the situation around that’s the most important thing, not where we were at half time but where we were at the end of the match. It’s a sign of the experience of the current group that we are able to fall back on some good fundamentals that we have had for a long time.