Schalk Burger: Former Springbok would have ‘kneeed’ to De Klerk’s head

Image copyright Instagram Image caption Shakesaba Hadebe said he would take the early challenge

Oscar-winning South African flanker Schalk Burger has said he would have taken a similar knee to the head that led to the retirement of rival Faf de Klerk.

The 73-Test veteran, 40, was banned for six months and De Klerk was banned for eight months by the Rugby World Cup Appeal Board.

“I’d have taken the knee like De Klerk,” said Burger.

“If I can’t give my all and try my hardest, how do I stay on? If you push the boundaries and go above and beyond, then you should be punished.

“But I still think when I was younger you could push the limit. You could try to injure yourself.

“But as I’ve got older, you become more aware, have a bit more perspective about trying to protect yourself – at the end of the day, you need to protect your family. I think as you get older it’s a lesson that you learn.”

How rugby tries to stop dangerous play

The 8 February incident, which was missed by the TMO, saw Burger take down De Klerk in the Springboks’ team photo on the Johannesburg sidelines as part of the team celebrate their landmark win over the All Blacks at Ellis Park.

Burger knocked De Klerk to the ground hard enough to make a hole in his skull in his back.

Watch: De Klerk injured, post-video chat with scrum-half Ross Cronje

One version of events paints Burger as being deliberately aggressive, knocking De Klerk to the ground so hard the Springbok lost consciousness for a moment.

There were also suggestions he stamped on his opponent’s face before he hit the ground.

The Springboks and De Klerk both had their initial eight-month suspensions reduced by six months on appeal.

There is a Department of Justice and Constitutional Development Advisory Group working to find a solution to head injuries and Laws of Sport.

South Africa backs World Rugby’s new lead role

Zimbabwean de Klerk has since moved to French team Bordeaux but with tests in Japan and England looming in the next five months, he could miss both RWC qualifiers.

Burger and his international team-mates have already been called up to make late dash to Tokyo.

Springboks coach Rassie Erasmus admitted his players were fatigued by the return of domestic rugby this season.

Burger said he did not want to comment on the handling of the replay footage after he was banned.

“That’s in the hands of the World Rugby,” he said.

Erasmus, who is on a short tour of the Pacific islands to preview Saturday’s Test against Fiji, was also hopeful De Klerk would still be playing in time for the 2018 World Cup.

“He is a warrior and a warrior is not going to back down. He’s in great shape, he is going to give it everything, but I will have to talk to him this week,” Erasmus said.

Erasmus added the Springboks were reacting to how violent their sport has become over the last few years.

“The game of rugby – international rugby – has gone through a period where it’s been volatile, dangerous, and people are being injured, because the game has changed,” he said.

“The players are taking on the challenges more than before. I think the game is definitely evolving and there is a momentum behind the sport that will only increase.

“I think the players are going to be very aware that the ball can travel at 40km per hour and the risks have changed. At the end of the day, if you take yourself out of the equation then nobody is going to miss it.”

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