By RICHARD KNOWLER - The Press
July 24th, 2009
The absence of the suspended Schalk Burger should ease the All Blacks' medical staff's workload following Sunday morning's test in Bloemfontein.
The big flanker will not play in either of the Springboks' Tri Nations matches against the All Blacks in South Africa because he is serving an eight-week suspension for eye gouging and for All Blacks skipper Richie McCaw that can only be good news.
Openside flanker McCaw has often been at the business end of the massive Burger's clean outs or tackles because for Burger an exposed ribcage is like a lamb waiting to be savaged by a vulture – the opportunity is too good to resist.
"He's a pretty good player, Burger, definitely," McCaw said. "But you don't look at it like that. If you ever think it's going to be easy because someone different's there, it just won't be the case. Certainly there have been some good battles with Schalk over the years."
With Heinrich Brussouw having been picked in Burger's absence, the dynamic of the Springboks loose forward mix has changed because he is more of a fetcher than an intimidator.
While Burger is also a handy operator at the breakdown, his major weapon was his brutal hits but if opponents were able to turn him by getting over the advantage line more quickly he was less effective in scrambling for the ball.
"The big thing Burger brought to the game was the real physical side, like the way he really flew into things," McCaw added."I'm not saying Brussouw is any different but he's just a little bit smaller and he's perhaps more of a player that attacks the ball on the ground and can put a fair bit of pressure on that way. Just like we had last week with George Smith, he's that type of player that you have to keep an eye on."
When McCaw played in the Crusaders' shock loss to the Cheetahs this season, it was the first time he had played at Bloemfontein's Vodacom Park and he won't have many fond memories of the occasion.
The Cheetahs's packs, which included Brussouw's Springboks' loose forward partner Juan Smith, were quick to nab the Crusaders skipper whenever they could and later it was revealed he had suffered concussion which prevented him from playing the Lions in Johannesburg the following weekend.
Last weekend McCaw did remarkably well to last 80 minutes after not having played a full game since the Super 14 semifinal because of a knee injury and reckoned should be much better for the outing in Bloemfontein.
"There was a bit of rust there and I'll be a whole lot better for that 80 minutes, as I'm sure a couple of others will as well. It gives you a bit of confidence having got through that and got the win but we're under no illusion that last week doesn't mean a whole lot. We're going to be in a pretty physical battle, which is always the case."