'Terrible spectator' Schalk Burger raring to go

After pacing the sidelines for two weeks, Schalk Burger gets another chance to wreak havoc for South Africa at the World Cup.

The bustling blonde backrower was switched from the flank to number eight in a strong Springboks lineup unveiled by coach Jake White for Sunday’s match against the winless United States in Montpellier.

“I’m a terrible spectator,” Burger said. “It’s been a bit frustrating. But back playing this week, so raring to go.”

The Springboks ensured top place in Group A with three straight wins, including a 36-0 drubbing of defending champion England.

“It’s still important for us to have a good match and keep some momentum going into the quarterfinals,” said Burger, who was suspended for two games for a high tackle on Samoa scrumhalf Junior Polu in South Africa’s opening 59-7 win in Paris.
“So, yes, I’m looking forward to it.”

The US started gamely against England, going down 28-10, but followed that with losses to Tonga and Samoa and only had four days between the last defeat and South Africa.

“To be fair, I don’t think too many countries would like to play Samoa and then South Africa in four days,” White said. “And considering it’s the [last] game of the pool stages as well.”

While sympathising with the American situation, White did nothing to help it by choosing a near full-strength squad as part of his build-up for the knockout stages.

Part of that is a backrow reshuffle with Burger at number eight to cover for Danie Rossouw, who hurt his neck in the 30-25 win over Tonga.

Juan Smith and Wikus van Heerden are the flankers.

Bakkies Botha is rested after three strong matches, meaning Albert Van den Berg wins his 50th cap by joining Victor Matfield in the second row.

Elsewhere tighthead prop BJ Botha starts ahead of CJ Van der Linde and winger Akona Ndungane gets his first start while PJ Pietersen is rested.

White selected Percy Montgomery at fullback despite a calf muscle strain and has given him until Saturday night to prove his fitness.

Ruan Pienaar is on standby.

“What we’re going to try to do out of this fixture is create an opportunity for two weeks’ preparation for a quarterfinal clash next weekend—and that includes a fixture on Sunday,” White said. “But the reality was our preparation for the quarters actually started after the game against Tonga.”

White makes 13 changes to the predominantly second-string starting lineup that struggled against Tonga, retaining only lock Albert Van den Berg and flanker Wickus van Heerden.

He has brought back stars like scrumhalf Fourie du Preez, winger Bryan Habana and veteran fullback Montgomery to get more match practice ahead of the quarterfinal against Fiji.

US coach Peter Thorburn makes two changes to the team that went down 25-21 to Samoa on Tuesday, bringing in lock Mike Mangan for Hayden Mexted and number eight Dan Payne for the injured Fifita Mougna. - Sapa-AP

Teams

South Africa: Percy Montgomery, Akona Ndungane, Jaque Fourie, Francois Steyn, Bryan Habana, Butch James, Fourie du Preez; Os du Randt, John Smit (captain), BJ Botha, Albert van den Berg, Victor Matfield, Wickus van Heerden, Juan Smith, Schalk Burger. Replacements: Bismarck du Plessis, CJ van der Linde, Bakkies Botha, Bobby Skinstad, Ruan Pienaar, Andre Pretorius, JP Pietersen, Wynand Olivier.

United States: Chris Wyles, Takaduza Ngwenya, Philip Eloff, Vahafolau Eskia, Selesi Sika, Mike Hercus (captain), Chad Erskine; Mike MacDonald, Owen Lentz, Chris Osentowski, Alec Parker, Mike Mangan, Louis Stanfill, Todd Clever, Dan Payne. Replacements: Blake Burdette, Matekitonga Moeakiola, Mark Aylor, Henry Bloomfield, Mike Petri, Valenese Malifa, Thretton Palamo.

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