Van Lill Captains Namibia in Burger’s Absence

PJ van Lill will captain Namibia against Western Province on Saturday, and most probably on their tour to Madagascar, after the withdrawal of Jacques Burger due to injury.

The Namibian team to face WP was named on Tuesday, although the final 26-man squad that will travel to Madagascar at the end of the month will only be announced next week.

Burger’s absence will be a blow for Namibia, especially after his brilliant season for his English club, Saracens, during which he established himself as one of the top players in world rugby this year. He was shortlisted for the European Player of the Season award, while he helped his English club Saracens reach two cup finals in the English Aviva Premiership and the Heineken European Cup, where they lost to Northampton Saints and Toulon respectively.

Burger was nominated for Europe’s top award along with Saracens team mates Schalk Brits and Chris Ashton and Steffon Armitage and Johnny Wilkinson of Toulon. The English loose forward Armitage won the award.

Burger’s display in their 46-6 victory against Clermont in the European Cup semifinals, had rugby followers and journalists in awe.

“In Jacques Burger, their piratical-looking Namibian flanker, Sarries also have a man single-handedly altering orthodox notions of how the sport is played when the opposition have the ball… Never have the Michelin men from the Auvergne suffered a 40-point losing margin in the professional era, let alone been bullied into utter submission as they were here,” Robert Kitson of the Guardian wrote after the match.

Burger’s outstanding performances have however come at a cost as his body has taken a battering after his brave, crash-tackling displays week in and week out.

After a serious knee injury a few years ago, Burger was put on an extreme rehabilitation programme by Saracens, that also requires him to ice his knee for 20 minutes each hour.

Burger will reportedly undergo a shoulder operation on Wednesday and the CEO of the NRU Sybrand de Beer confirmed that he had withdrawn.

“Yes, it is a blow to lose someone of Jacques Burger’s calibre, especially after his brilliant season, but we have enough leadership in our group with players like PJ and Tinus (du Plessis) who have captained the team in the past,” he said.

Saturday’s match against DHL Western Province will be followed by another preparation match against the Vodacom Blue Bulls on 21 June, before the team departs for Madagascar on 25 June to compete in the African World Cup qualifier against Zimbabwe, Kenya and the hosts, Madagascar.

The Namibian team to face Western Province includes four foreign-based players who joined the team on completion of their clubs’ seasons.

Fullback Chrysander Botha had a fine season with the Golden Lions and regularly represented them in the Super 15 and Currie Cup competitions.

The other returning professionals are Western Province flanker Rohan Kitshoff, and flyhalf Theuns Kotze and wing Conrad Marais, who both play in France.

Saturday’s match between the Windhoek Draught Welwitschias and DHL Western Province will start at 14h00 at the Hage Geingob Stadium.

The Namibian team to face DHL Western Province is as follows:

Johnny Redelinghuys, Rathony Becker, Andre Schlechter, Munee Tjiueza, Morne Blom, Rohan Kitshoff, Tinus du Plessis, PJ van Lill (captain), Arthur Bouwer, Theuns Kotze (vice captain), Johan Tromp, Darryl de la Harpe, Heinrich Smith, Conrad Marais and Chrysander Botha.

The substitutes are DG Wiese, Jaco Engels, Shaun du Preez, Stefan Neustadt, Awie Thompson, Eniell Buitendag, Johan Deysel, Divan Visser and Thomasua Forbes.

Source : The Namibian