Saracens boss hails Jacques Burger as flanker retires following victory over Newcastle
PUBLISHED: 15:54 04 May 2016 | UPDATED: 15:54 04 May 2016
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Saracens boss Mark McCall described Jacques Burger as “the toughest and bravest rugby player there is” after the flanker played his final game for the club before retiring.
The 32-year-old Namibia international, who joined Sarries in 2010, missed 18 months between 2011 and 2013 with a serious knee injury but has fought back to play a total of 114 matches for the Hendon outfit, winning two Premiership titles – and he made his last appearance in Sunday’s 23-14 home win over Newcastle Falcons.
“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 director of rugby McCall. “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 trailed Newcastle 14-3 at half-time on Sunday but Jackson Wray crossed the line twice, Maro Itoje also touched down and Charlie Hodgson kicked his second penalty to secure a home win.
That ensured the north London club cemented top spot in the table for the third time in four years, booking a home semi-final in the Premiership play-offs as they seek to defend their domestic title.
Before then, McCall’s side will visit Worcester Warriors on Saturday before facing French outfit Racing 92 in the European final on May 14.
“We weren’t at our best by a long way,” said Wray. “Obviously we know what’s coming up and sometimes it’s difficult not to have one eye on that, but we dug deep, like we always try to do. We had to show a lot of character in that second half.”
n Saracens have signed Bedford Blues lock forward Mark Flanagan on a two-year deal.