Taking the road less traveled: Sharksworld chats to Craig Burden

Written by Rob Otto (robdylan)

Posted in :Original Content, Sharks on 3 Mar 2008 at 14:44
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Exchanging the wide-open spaces of the outside back position for the coalface of the front row is a move that few, if indeed any, professional rugby players have even attempted, much less successfully negotiated. Sharksworld was fortunate enough to catch up with a young man who is well on his way to achieving the transition.

Craig Bruce Burden was born in Durban in 1985 and will turn 23 in May this year. He learned his rugby at one of the traditional Midlands powerhouses of the game, Maritzburg College, probably the only school in the world to have produced two World-Cup winning flyhalves. Burden burst onto the scene in 2006 with a number of promising performances on the wing, prompting the following to appear in the Independant of July 29 that year:

“Craig Burden has been one of the most impressive wings in the Currie Cup so far, hitting opposition lines with countless bullocking runs, and endearing himself to Sharks fans in the process. The Maritzburg College old boy has made the step up from Under 21 rugby, and is now looking to cement his place in the Sharks team. “

It seemed that all was on track, but then Burden disappeared off the scene. The talk was that he was at the Murray Mexted Academy in New Zealand and that he was going to come back, not only a better player, but also in a completely different position. We asked Craig what prompted the switch.

“Dick Muir called me in for a meeting”, he tells us, “and he suggested that in terms of furthering my career, he thought that hooker was a position better suited for me. At first I was a bit skeptical, as it’s a big change, but he was very enthusiastic about it. He was prepared to send me to the Murray Mexted Academy and I had the backing of all the management. And it was just up to me to get going in the new position. I thought it a great move, after I saw the reasons why he wanted me to move. ”

What were those reasons? We all thought that he was doing bloody well at wing and would probably be an even better outside centre. Burden is pragmatic, though, conceding “I think maybe out-and-out pace on the wing was something I lacked, particularly at Super 14 level. Rather be a fast hooker than a slow wing.” He continues “Dick thought that in terms of the type of game I played, he saw me getting more involved in the tighter play and thought I would be more suited to a hooker role. He sees a hooker playing as an extra loose forward and I think that gave him the idea. I’m really enjoying it at the moment.”

Burden was clearly impressed at what he learned in New Zealand. “You’re working with top class coaches, Paul Mitchell, Richard Loe, Eddie Jones and Ian Jones. It was about building a solid foundation. I really felt I learned a lot about the basics, in terms of scrumming, running lines, your game and structure from a hooker’s perspective. From there the plan was for me to come on as an impact player in the Super 14. I was very lucky to get some game time in the Currie Cup.”

We then talked about how he feels he’s adapting to the new position. “The finer details of playing hooker, like the lineouts, takes a lot of work. It’s not something you can perfect on your own, more needing a full group of forwards there to practice and get your timing right. That comes right through game time and experience. I feel I lacked that in the Currie Cup, but I was satisfied in terms of my scrumming and my tighter play.”

We asked Craig if he feels he has any particular strengths and weaknesses relative to other guys in the same position, given where he has come from. “I feel I am behind in terms of scrummaging and lineouts, which comes with time. It’s definitely something I’ve got to work on. Coming from the backline, I’m happy with my speed and my fitness. I wouldn’t want to sacrifice that. I’d rather contribute something in the loose play as well as having a solid foundation in the basics of playing hooker.

“Working with guys like Bismarck du Plessis, his brother Jannie, BJ Botha, every training session you learn more and more and more. For me, getting the lineouts right is the part I’ve really got to focus on. Lineouts are a crucial part of the game. I’m really happy with my progress in terms of scrumming and that just comes from practicing with and learning from the best guys ”

And what of the new laws? He reckons “the new laws are definitely going to put emphasis on speed and mobility – you can see that in the first few rounds already. The game is a lot faster: free kicks, with quick taps taken, retreating quickly. Fitness wise and speed wise, everyone will need to step up a level. It’s going to be a lot faster and a lot more open. ”

Asked about his aspirations for the future, Craig is keen to get as much Super 14 gametime under his belt as he can and then see what the Currie Cup holds. “You’re playing against top internationals every week and you learn so much as a result. I just want to be on the field as much as I can and learn as much as I can about my new position. I want to get my lineout work up to scratch and make an impact in my position in the Super 14. That’s the role I’ve been given”

Off the field, Craig is kept pretty busy juggling his rugby commitments and his engineering studies. He likes to play the odd round of golf and go to the beach, but reckons time to settle down with an particular love interest in not something he can really accommodate right now… sounds like there’s an open invitation for somebody to prove him wrong! “You’ve got to keep your focus on the field,” is all he has to say about that.

We’d like to thank Craig Burden for taking the time to speak to Sharksworld and wish him all the best for the future. I think, if anything, his performance at Loftus in the second half proved that the only way is up.


  • CBB’s lineout work in the second half was damn good, especially in comparison with the dog’s breakfast that was Skipper’s effort in the first.

  • Comment 1, posted at 03.03.08 14:54:23 by robdylan Reply
    Competition Winner Administrator
  • Nice article Rob – and very nicely written. You know my take on Craig – I think he is doing so well and is going to get better and better and who knew that we would need a replacement Hooker so badly! Good luck Craig.

  • Comment 2, posted at 03.03.08 15:04:26 by Nessa Reply

  • Rob,

    We all knew before the game that Skippers lineout work would not be up to scratch.

    Burden was extremely impressive and the time has now come for him to start (if Bismarck is still injured). His work in the loose was excellent and his strength carries him through tacklers. Maybe his lineout work and scrummaging needs improvement but it’s certainly better than Skipper’s and as you say his lineout work on Sat was more than acceptable.

    The Sharks bench is our strength this year. All subs made huge impacts. Deysel and Botes coming on when the opposition are becoming a bit wary, proved lethal!

  • Comment 3, posted at 03.03.08 15:06:47 by Villie Reply
    Competition Winner
  • well, he proved his point. As he said to me a few times, it’s just not possible to get the lineout timing perfect unless you’re getting the chance to play…

  • Comment 4, posted at 03.03.08 15:07:21 by robdylan Reply
    Competition Winner Administrator
  • I was so impressed with Deysel, Villie… really, really impressed. He seems to have a fair turn of speed.

  • Comment 5, posted at 03.03.08 15:08:09 by robdylan Reply
    Competition Winner Administrator
  • Yep- that’s the kid of performance we want to see…always better than the last time…

    Keep going Craig!

  • Comment 6, posted at 03.03.08 15:08:15 by blackshark Reply

    blackshark - I'm back!
  • Rob,

    Is there an article on the Wildebeest up? I can’t log on to sharksrugby at work. I know they lost again but haven’t managed to see a match report.

    It’s hardly surprising though with the extremely puzzling team selections! I don’t know why they continue to play players out of position! 🙄

  • Comment 7, posted at 03.03.08 15:09:45 by Villie Reply
    Competition Winner
  • kid = kind 😳

  • Comment 8, posted at 03.03.08 15:10:22 by blackshark Reply

    blackshark - I'm back!
  • Me too Rob,

    I hadn’t seen much of him since he joined the Sharks but do remember him from some club rugby I saw a couple of years back as well as from the Lions.

    He impressed me enormously on Sat and he’s a big lad too which is always good!

  • Comment 9, posted at 03.03.08 15:11:31 by Villie Reply
    Competition Winner
  • I was thoroughly impressed with his performance.

  • Comment 10, posted at 03.03.08 15:13:04 by hellbent Reply

  • No article yet… let me go try find one.

  • Comment 11, posted at 03.03.08 15:16:57 by robdylan Reply
    Competition Winner Administrator
  • Hey Villie – is that why you sooo scarse on the other side ❓

    Good to see a fellow Amadoda (Keegan) do so well this weekend! ❓

  • Comment 12, posted at 03.03.08 15:32:20 by Me2 Reply

    Me2 aka Mama Shark
  • Hi Me2

    Yep…thats the reason. Other side is blocked at work and then with 2 little ones at home, I rarely get a chance in the evenings.

    I was chuffed to bits with Keegan’s performance on Sat as I’ve been vocal about him not being given a starting opportunity for ages. Hopefully now he’ll be given an extended run in the starting XV.

    Dale Amadoda!!

  • Comment 13, posted at 03.03.08 15:39:02 by Villie Reply
    Competition Winner
  • Sorry Rob….great article!!

    I really rated this young guy as one for the future…well it seems “the now” has become the future & he really has put his hand up and is a really able replacement for Bissie! BUT I still pray that Bissie will be ready for next weeks game…as they are saying!
    It will certainly be a miraculous healing of a “broken” rib!!!

    Just ribbing you 😆

  • Comment 14, posted at 03.03.08 15:41:01 by Me2 Reply

    Me2 aka Mama Shark
  • Nice article. It’s always interesting to hear the perspective of the players.

  • Comment 15, posted at 03.03.08 15:47:07 by Waz Reply

  • I think it would be unfair to at this stage to pit Burden up against one of the best hookers in world rugby for 80 minutes on Saturday…hope Bissie is good to go for Saturday.

    Villie I agree on our subs ability to turn a match on its head…now we just got to sort our play for the 1st 60 minutes!!

  • Comment 16, posted at 03.03.08 15:57:45 by Dive Pass Reply

    Dive Pass
  • Dive Pass – I don’t think that anybody is saying that. If Bismarck is fit to play then he would be first choice hooker – I think what most people are saying is that Craig would be our backup to him – and not Skipper.

  • Comment 17, posted at 03.03.08 16:05:15 by Nessa Reply

  • 03.03.08 16:05:15 – Nessa

    Well if Bismarck is not fit for Saturday then that is a potential prospect we face…Burden or the journeyman against the best.

  • Comment 18, posted at 03.03.08 16:11:50 by Dive Pass Reply

    Dive Pass
  • You also have to bear in mind as to who will cover for Bismarck when he is away playing for the Bokke. I know it will only be later in the year – but we need a suitable replacement.

  • Comment 19, posted at 03.03.08 16:14:18 by Nessa Reply

  • Please come back, John 😆

  • Comment 20, posted at 03.03.08 16:31:45 by yossarian Reply

  • yossarian – that won’t help…both John & Bissie will be with the Bok squad 😀

  • Comment 21, posted at 03.03.08 16:39:58 by Me2 Reply

    Me2 aka Mama Shark
  • 03.03.08 16:39:58 – Me2

    Burden will be fine in the Currie Cup….but against a seasoned All Black is a different proposition

  • Comment 22, posted at 03.03.08 16:45:36 by Dive Pass Reply

    Dive Pass
  • Craig will be fine as starting hooker in the currie cup

  • Comment 23, posted at 03.03.08 16:52:26 by robdylan Reply
    Competition Winner Administrator
  • and a sub in the S14 😀

  • Comment 24, posted at 03.03.08 17:09:11 by Me2 Reply

    Me2 aka Mama Shark
  • I have just read the article and am pretty impressed with the guy.

    Seems level headed and keen to work at making a success of the conversion to hooker.

    Good luck Craig, let’s hope things continue in the vain they have started.

  • Comment 25, posted at 03.03.08 20:47:46 by KSA Shark © Reply

    KSA Shark ©
  • Hey KSA!

  • Comment 26, posted at 03.03.08 20:49:24 by Nessa Reply

  • Hey Nessa.

    I hope rob includes the burden interview in the Podcast. 😉

  • Comment 27, posted at 03.03.08 20:51:54 by KSA Shark © Reply

    KSA Shark ©
  • I am rather tired and if there is still no news about Engels and “Wat het ek gedoen” Nel by 11pm (My time) then I am going to bed.

  • Comment 28, posted at 03.03.08 20:52:56 by KSA Shark © Reply

    KSA Shark ©
  • Nice article. We were just reading it at home.

    What time is it there by you now? Where are you? You aren’t home if I recall.

  • Comment 29, posted at 03.03.08 20:55:07 by Nessa Reply


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