The mystery regarding Sharks hooker Craig Burden’s disappearing act this weekend seems to be clearing up.
Burden was somewhat mysteriously omitted from the match 22 that traveled to Kimberley on Saturday, with Kyle Cooper handed the number 2 jersey and Monde Hadebe the 16. While anything is, of course, possible given the Sharks’ rotation policy, I’ll admit that I was surprised to find Burden’s name nowhere in sight for such a crucial encounter.
News out of Durban this weekend, though, is that the Sharks have given Burden their blessing in pursuing a move to French club Toulon. The Mediterranean giants have been desperately seeking a top hooker – with incumbent Sébastien Bruno no spring chicken at 39 years of age – and have recently failed to lure another Shark, in Bismarck du Plessis, to the club. According to both Jean Smyth of EWN and Craig Lewis of the Daily News, the 28-year-old Burden (who used to play at wing, you know) will head to the French South coast this week to join Toulon on a trial basis, ahead of a more permanent move if all goes well.
Burden, who spent a lot of time in the rather large shadows caused by du Plessis and current CEO Jonh Smit finally established himself as a Super Rugby regular when the latter moved to Saracens in 2011. Ironically, it was a spell with the Springboks as an uncapped tourist last year that allowed Kyle Cooper to usurp his position in Durban and to be fair, Burden has never quite recovered from that setback, with the younger and more physical coming through strongly to cement a position as du Plessis’ deputy in Super Rugby this year. While the pair have been rotated thus far in the Currie Cup, it’s quite clear that Cooper remains the first choice option.
Further complicating matters in the continued development of Hadebe and Franco Marais behind Burden – both are former Junior Springboks and have captained the Sharks at under 21 level. It look as though the Sharks, who clearly don’t consider Burden to be a part of the long-term plans any more, have kindly agreed to allow him to pursue the French dream and will look to Hadebe to play out the Currie Cup season in his stead.
Good luck, Bruce! Really hoping it all works out for you at Toulon, a great club whose running game you are sure to complement hugely.Tweet