DURBAN – It looks like Craig Burden will at last make his comeback for the Sharks in their big match against the Jaguares in Buenos Aires on Saturday.
The 33-year-old is one of 14 forwards included in the 25-man squad that travelled to Argentina yesterday. With Akker van der Merwe still injured fit-again Burden replaces Cullen Collopy, who covered for starting hooker Kerron van Vuuren last week against the Hurricanes.
The Sharks have had major dramas at hooker this season, starting with the doping allegations around Chiliboy Ralepelle, and Van der Merwe has been variously suspended or injured.
Two young hookers, Fez Mbatha and Dylan Richardson, have been called up for duty with the Junior Boks.
The Sharks looked to bolster their hooker reserves by signing Burden in March, only for him to suffer a series of injuries in training, preventing him making his comeback after last playing for Sharks in 2013.
After leaving Jonsson Kings Park, the burly hooker spent two seasons at Toulon before a short spell with Montpellier, and he has been at Stade Français for the past three years.
Burden returned to Durban for his wedding, and was looking to return to France when the Sharks came knocking. In March he was named on the Sharks’ bench for their match against the Bulls but pulled a hamstring.
After recovering from the hammy he was included in the match day squad before tearing a bicep muscle.
Burden said his comeback for the Sharks will mean the world to him.
“When I finished at the Sharks (in 2013), I never thought I’d play for them again. When opportunity arose it just ignited the passion for the Sharks that was always there.
“My role isn’t confined to just bringing knowledge and experience. I’m here to have a full crack and play as much as I can. I’m as hungry now as I’ve ever been to play in the Sharks’ jersey. When I picked up the bicep injury I was gutted.”
The Sharks squad was without injured prop Beast Mtawarira and scrumhalf Cameron Wright, whose replacement is scrum-half Zee Makhabela, who made his debut off the bench against the Hurricanes last week.
Jeremy Ward has also been included amongst the backs.
Forwards - Coenie Oosthuizen, Craig Burden, Daniel du Preez, Hyron Andrews, Jacques Vermeulen, Jean-Luc du Preez, John-Hubert Meyer, Juan Schoeman, Kerron van Vuuren, Mzamo Majola, Ruan Botha, Ruben van Heerden, Thomas du Toit, Tyler Paul.
Backs - Louis Schreuder (c), Andre Esterhuizen, Aphelele Fassi, Curwin Bosch, Jeremy Ward, Kobus van Wyk, Lukhanyo Am, Makazole Mapimpi, Robert du Preez, Sbu Nkosi, Zee Makhabela.