Burger fit for crucial Lions Test

Flanker returns from calf injury as South Africa look for series-clinching victory
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The Independent Online

Schalk Burger has recovered from a calf injury to be selected in South Africa's starting line-up for the second Test against the British and Irish Lions on Saturday as the Springboks try to wrap up a series triumph.

The blindside flanker replaces Heinrich Brüssow in the team announced yesterday. Brüssow stepped in for Burger and scored a try in his first start in last weekend's 26-21 victory in Durban to give the world champions a 1-0 lead in the three-match series.

"It's nice to be back in the Springbok line-up again, especially against the Lions and for my 50th cap," Burger said. "You only get one opportunity in a lifetime to play against the Lions so this is very special.

"I was pretty worried when I got the injury in the Super 14s and it's been slow to recover. But the calf muscle has been improving."

Brüssow drops to the bench, with the back-up scrum-half Ricky Januarie missing out and Chiliboy Ralepelle coming into the XXII as back-up hooker behind Bismarck du Plessis. "I have never been Heinrich and Heinrich has never been me," Burger said about his rival, who is more of a tackler and less of a ball carrier.

"We have different ways to play. I have played this way for six or seven years and that's not going to change."

The Lions, who need to strengthen the front row after being given a first-half mauling at Kings Park, will select their line-up tomorrow for the second Test in Pretoria. The two teams also meet at Ellis Park in Johannesburg on 4 July.

The Springboks captain John Smit said he did not think the second Test would go the same way as the first, with the Boks opening up a 26-7 lead early in the second half and then hanging on to win by five points.

"Each Test poses different questions and the first one could have had a different result," he said. "We were very satisfied with the result on Saturday, but it was a performance that did not satisfy us to do the team justice."

The British and Irish Lions have insisted they are not to blame for the high ticket prices that have led to disappointing attendances during their tour of South Africa.

The first Test in Durban was not sold out and there are still tickets available for Saturday's second Test in Pretoria priced at £95, nearly three times more expensive than a Tri-Nations international.

The Lions tour matches against provincial opposition, weakened by the absence of their Springbok players, have been blighted by swathes of empty seats, with those tickets costing around five times more than a domestic Currie Cup match.

The Lions chief executive, John Feehan, has faced a number of enquiries on the subject during meetings with various rugby stakeholders and yesterday outlined that the ticketing policy was down to the South African rugby authorities.

Feehan said: "The South African Rugby Union and its provincial unions had sole responsibility for the setting of ticket prices for the British and Irish Lions tour and the Lions management had no input whatsoever into any of this. The Lions did appoint official overseas travel agencies to service the requirements of travelling British and Irish Lions supporters.

"However, the tickets for this programme were purchased at full price from the South African Rugby Union by the British and Irish Lions.

"It is true to say we are very surprised at the level of the attending crowds. The Lions only visit South Africa every 12 years and it is therefore disappointing that the stadiums have been far from full." South Africa's rugby project manager, Andre Horman, recently admitted that, with hindsight, they would have taken a different view on ticket prices.

South Africa team to face the British and Irish Lions in the second Test in Pretoria on Saturday

F Steyn (Sharks); J P Pietersen (Sharks), A Jacobs (Sharks), J de Villiers (Stormers), B Habana (Bulls); R Pienaar (Sharks), F du Preez (Bulls); T Mtawarira (Sharks), B du Plessis (Sharks), J Smit (Sharks), B Botha (Bulls), V Matfield (Bulls), S Burger (Stormers), J Smith (Cheetahs), P Spies (Bulls). Replacements: C Ralepelle (Bulls), D Carstens (Sharks), A Bekker (Stormers), D Rossouw (Bulls), H Brüssow (Cheetahs), J Fourie (Lions), M Steyn (Bulls).