Ex-rugby captain teaches youngsters to chase their dreams

Rugby lovers will remember the former Welwitschias captain, loose- forward Jacques Burger, affectionately known as ‘Buga’, as a fierce competitor and robust tackler.

Born in Windhoek, Burger started playing rugby in Grade 1 at Eros Primary School at the age of seven.

“I started playing centre right from my primary school days until my matric year at Windhoek High School. I just loved the adrenaline rush during matches and I was never the one who shied away from a tackle.

“In fact, I enjoyed those bone-crunching tackles,” he says.

“When you play sport it is of paramount importance to be down to earth. Rugby is a team sport and you should never think that you are better than your teammates. Play for each other.”

Burger started playing a loose-forward on the ad- vice of his former coach at Wanderers, where he was introduced to club rugby.

He describes his playing style as tactical.

“I moved to Kimberley where I played for the Griquas between 2007 and 2008, before I was signed by French club Aurillac, with whom I have been between 2008 and 2010, before I made my dream move back to Africa to join the Blue Bulls,” he says.

“Joining the Bulls was a childhood dream come true. I was in France, where I spent two seasons when the Bulls came calling during the 2007 Rugby World Cup. I played over 100 matches over two seasons for the Bulls.”

Burger says hard work and dedication saw him being snatched up by London-based premier- ship outfit Saracens in 2009, where he quickly earned a reputation as one of the toughest tacklers in the English Premier League.

He was named player of the year for the 2010/11 season in his second season with Saracens and also won three English Premiership titles during a highly successful career with the London outfit, which ended in 2015.

“One of my proudest moments as a Namibian came in 2011 when I was listed as one of the top five players of the tournament by the International Rugby Board’s Rugby News Service during the Rugby World Cup in New Zealand,” he says.

Burger’s time in Eng- land was also highlighted with a continental championship after Saracens became the first English club to win the Heineken European Championship after a 20-10 victory over Leinster in Newcastle, although he did not play in the final after undergoing an operation on an injured shoulder.

“Winning the European Cup was a very special moment, but my most memorable moment at club level was after I returned from a huge knee injury. I had a very big operation and even my doctor wasn’t too sure if I would play rugby again,” he says.

“I played probably my best match for Saracens that day. I had exceptional moments on the rugby field, but that was the semi- final of the European Cup in 2013 and I was even named man of the match afterwards and nominated as European player of the year.”

The former Bulls star made 46 appearances for the Namibian national team, while boasting a solid 40 points at international level.

He suffered a concussion during his third Rugby World Cup for the Welwitschias against Georgia, which resulted in him not playing in the final group match against Argentina.

“Although I am disappointed to have bowed out of international rugby without a single win at the Rugby World Cup, I am more than proud of my contributions for my national team. I am a proud Namibian and I love my country and I would have loved just one single win,” he says.

A match against Georgia turned out to be Burger’s final international match, before he retired from professional rugby towards the end of the 2015/16 season.

HAPPY FAMILY … Jacques and Lehanie Burger with their two children after his farewell match at StoneX Stadium in London, United Kingdom, in 2016.


Burger married his wife, Lehanie, in Windhoek in 2010 and the couple has two children.

“The people of Saracens looked after me well and I made sure I saved enough money to realise my dream of becoming a farmer. I bought a farm in the Stampriet area, where my wife is from and I’m a proud sheep farmer,” he says.

“I tried my hand at cattle farming, but it was not easy with the drought we had and I just decided to go concentrate on sheep. I was a city boy through and through and I just learnt everything I knew when I bought the farm.”

He says he started farming in 2016.

Apart from farming, the retired star also coaches the under-10 and under-12 boys’ teams at Roots Gymnasium.

“I want these boys to have their own dream,” he says.

His advice to young rugby players is that hard work and talent are appreciated.

“Even if you are playing in front of 10 to 20 people, give it your all, because you just don’t know who may be watching,” Burger says.

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