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Preparing to run out for the Sharks against the Lions in the Currie Cup last Saturday, hooker Craig Burden says he could never have imagined that less than 24 hours later he’d be on board a plane bound for Argentina as a member of the Springbok squad.
With Bismarck du Plessis having suffered a serious knee injury within the first five minutes of the Springboks’ opening Rugby Championship Test, Burden (pictured) receiv- ed his first Bok call-up, although it was only after he had helped the Sharks to an important win that he heard the news.
“Obviously with our Currie Cup game taking place straight after the Springboks’ Test, we were focusing on our final preparations, so obviously I didn’t see what happened,” he reflected.
“I got told by (Sharks coach) John Plumtree and (commercial manager) Rudolf Straeuli after our game when I was walking back to the change room. They came up to me and gave me a pat on the back and told me the news. It was an unbelievable feeling.
“It’s something everyone dreams about. It came in unfortunate circumstances with Bismarck picking up the injury, he plays a vital role in the Springbok camp, but I’ve been given an opportunity and really just need to make the most of it.”
Although Burden did form part of a wider Springbok training group prior to the June Test series against England, this is the first time he has been included in the Test squad.
“It’s fantastic. It’s all new for me,” he beamed. “I’m excited about every aspect: meeting up with the guys, touring. Whatever role I’m given on tour I’ll perform to the best of my ability. I’m just very proud all-round.”
Burden is unlikely to make the match-day 22 for this Saturday’s Test, with Adriaan Strauss set to start in place of Du Plessis, while Tiaan Liebenberg – who joined the squad last week as a replacement for the injured Chiliboy Ralepelle – is likely to be on the bench. Nevertheless, the 27-year-old said he was just chuffed to be in the squad.
The team arrived in Buenos Aires on Sunday night, before making the flight to the picturesque city of Mendoza yesterday, where they will take on the Pumas this Saturday (9.10pm kick-off SA time).
There is still some concern over the ankle injury sustained by Bryan Habana at the weekend, and he looks likely to be in a race against time to prove his availability.