Missing the boat with Burden

Written by Rob Otto (robdylan)

Posted in :Original Content, Sharks, Super 14 on 30 Apr 2010 at 10:26
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When last did anyone actually see Craig Burden spend any time on a rugby field – during a game, I mean?

Looking at the statistics, the former winger, who turns 25 next month, has played for exactly 16 minutes so far in this year’s Super 14. The three times he has come on (bearing in mind he’s the hooker replacement) he has played at loose forward (for five minutes against the Chiefs and eight minutes against the Lions) and at wing (three minutes against the Brumbies). The only game time he’s actually had in his primary position is the 73 minutes he played for the Sharks XV against Eastern Province the the Vodacom Cup a few weeks ago.

When we chatted to Burden back in 2008, he spoke of the leap of faith that Dick Muir persuaded him to take in converting to hooker – how the former coach felt he might lack a little top-end pace to be a really good wing, but that he has the attributes to succeed in the middle of the scrum. One can only conclude that the current coaching structures at the Sharks do not share Muir’s vision in this regard, since through their refusal to allow Burden any time to play at hooker, they are effectively scuppering any chance he may have had of successfully adapting to the position.

Burden has shown, every time he has been on the field, that he is a rare player – one who has the mythical “X-factor” so craved by coaches and fans alike. To have a player like that under contract, yet not play him, is simply criminal and it cannot be emphasised enough that, in order for him to get his lineouts under control and improve the tighter aspects of his game at hooker, he simply has to be playing in that position every single week. Even if John Plumtree and his lieutenants don’t feel comfortable with using Burden in the Super 14 (which they really should, because he’s played there before) then they should at least let him play every week for the Vodacom Cup side. Time is no longer on anyone’s side here and I know that the player is becoming increasingly frustrated with his lack of progress. Former mentor Muir is desperately keen to lure Burden to the Lions, while there are bound to be plenty of offers on the table from further North as well.

The truly bizarre thing, though, is that the Sharks now find themselves utterly devoid of any three quarters who are able to break the line, while one of the most promising and exciting attacking options we have now languishes on the bench as a hooker replacement who never gets to play hooker. It’s time for the management to have the balls to do one of two things – either give Burden the opportunities he needs to develop in the number 2 jersey, or reverse the decision to convert him and let’s see what he can do at outside centre in the Currie Cup.

One thing is for sure: trying to now use him as a utility loose-forward replacement when we already have umpteen good youngsters vying for that spot is simply madness.


  • I agree, Burden is a great player that the Sharks cant afford to lose.

  • Comment 1, posted at 30.04.10 10:44:14 by JarsonX Reply
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  • We have the following front row players to manage all of them Boks, Bissie, Beast, Barney and Doc. When you add Burden to the list then you suddenly realise that you have an embarrassment of riches up front. So how do manage them? Well maby better then they currently have been. I agree on him moving to the VC, this atleast give him a chance to get more experience at hooker.

  • Comment 2, posted at 30.04.10 10:47:40 by Farlington Reply

  • I would have Burden somewhere in my backline…I think inside center. He’s strong and can carry the ball over the advantage line and he also seems to know how to find a gap. He’s not slow, even while he’s known as a hooker, but maybe wing and outside center will be a little of his pace at this moment. In general, inside centers aren’t that fast, as long as they can get into a gap over the advantage line and offload to their center and wings outside and put them into space to use their pace.
    I like inside centers who can also kick, but Swannie is not so great at that anyhow, in fact since Barrit and Steyntjie, we haven’t gone that route again. Burden is a skilled player and I think since we’re looking very bad as far as centers go, Rob you’re right, we should use Burden in the Centers…but I think inside.

    I think maybe Burden is also seen as a Currie Cup, back-up for the hooker…that’s why they haven’t been moving him around, because when Bissie and John leaves for the Tri-Nations we don’t have any hookers left, but this guy Kyle Cooper, I think, playing for the XI is pretty good and should be good enough to take over as the Currie Cup, hooker, back-up.

  • Comment 3, posted at 30.04.10 10:49:51 by Letgo Reply
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  • @JarsonX (Comment 1) : Unlike all the other great players we lost over the years. Just imagine what our backline would have looked like had we not lost guys like Butch, Frans and Barritt. We would have had alot more bite then we have now that’s for sure.

  • Comment 4, posted at 30.04.10 10:51:27 by Farlington Reply

  • My take is that we should have had Burden playing every game at hooker in the Vodacom Cup. If we needed a bench hooker for the S14, then we should have used Cooper in that role. Reason being, Cooper is already a seasoned hooker and has played there his whole life. He could benefit from the “Super 14 squad culture” that comes from going on tour and sitting on the bench. Burden doesn’t need that – he needs to be playing 70+ minutes every week.

  • Comment 5, posted at 30.04.10 10:54:05 by robdylan Reply
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  • Great post, bummed for the guy myself, think he’s a star in the making if he gets the chance.

  • Comment 6, posted at 30.04.10 10:55:44 by billy Reply

  • @Farlington (Comment 4) : losing Brad was the real disaster. He was a great player and a Sharks man through-and-through. A team man, but he left when the team let him down once too often.

    For all his skills, Steyn never gelled in Durban. He was not well-liked by his team mates and butted heads with the coaching staff and management all the time. Square peg in a round hole and all-round recipe for disaster.

    Is Steyn had left sooner, maybe we would have kept Brad

  • Comment 7, posted at 30.04.10 10:56:27 by robdylan Reply
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  • @robdylan (Comment 7) : Blerrie Vrystaters :mrgreen:

  • Comment 8, posted at 30.04.10 11:29:07 by FireTheLooser Reply

  • @FireTheLooser (Comment 8) : you have an issue with the tin-ears? 😮

  • Comment 9, posted at 30.04.10 11:37:16 by robdylan Reply
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  • @robdylan (Comment 7) : I agree that Steyn’s attitude might have had an negative effect on the team. After all he is still young and his head might have gotten a bit big ever since the WC. I just hope that he will one day return a much more mature player. The point that I was trying to make however is that The Sharks have a tendancy to lose players of skill. But be honest Rob, would you not rather have Steyn in midfield then what the Sharks currently have to offer.

  • Comment 10, posted at 30.04.10 11:45:04 by Farlington Reply

  • @Farlington (Comment 10) : don’t make me answer that :mrgreen: I love Swannie.

  • Comment 11, posted at 30.04.10 12:10:32 by robdylan Reply
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  • @Farlington (Comment 10) : @robdylan (Comment 11) : Give Swaan time to mature, he was dropped in the deep end, then having almost found his feet he got injured….patience.

  • Comment 12, posted at 30.04.10 12:31:45 by FireTheLooser Reply

  • Well if one takes an outside view of the Tjorks set-up – your player management leaves a bit to be desired …

    Lensing (Who, yea indeed) Pienaar , Steyn (I thought the fans were a bit harsh on him ) Burden – good players all being dicked around – being played out of position etc – it smacks of issues at a management level.

    That said i also don’t think its just the Sharks – i think the Bulls alone have got player management right.

  • Comment 13, posted at 30.04.10 12:31:59 by Worcestershire Sauce Reply
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  • How do we get these kind of messages to the coaches and managers? Rob, don’t you have some contacts, some way of finding out what is going on? It can be very frustrating being a Sharks fan(atic)!

  • Comment 14, posted at 30.04.10 13:20:52 by jackal Reply

  • @jackal (Comment 14) : rest assured I’m working as many angles as I can think of, all the time 🙂

    Alas, I’m not yet in with the coaching staff. Give me time, though.

  • Comment 15, posted at 30.04.10 13:40:58 by robdylan Reply
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  • @jackal (Comment 14) : You take them hostage and brainwash them… true fan(atic) style :mrgreen:

  • Comment 16, posted at 30.04.10 13:41:59 by FireTheLooser Reply

  • I somehow doubt that there will be “plenty of offers on the table from further North” unless you’re talking about Europe

  • Comment 17, posted at 01.05.10 09:00:39 by eckard Reply

  • Rob, Have you read the Beeld yet? There is a article that Bissy is out for 6 weeks after a op? Have not read it anywhere else. You know more about this?

  • Comment 18, posted at 01.05.10 10:02:03 by Puma Reply

  • Kind of crappy for them to only allow a Pretoria based newspaper to report on breaking news regarding the KZN Sharks team….. 👿

  • Comment 19, posted at 01.05.10 10:31:40 by FireTheLooser Reply

  • @FireTheLooser (Comment 19) : And even worse to have the guys you look up to and trust for the latest news on your favorite, ultimate, monster team to flat out ignore your pleas for clarity on breaking news. :mrgreen: 🙁

  • Comment 20, posted at 01.05.10 10:47:29 by FireTheLooser Reply

  • We were asked not to publicise the story, so we didn’t

  • Comment 21, posted at 01.05.10 10:52:31 by robdylan Reply
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  • @robdylan (Comment 21) : So Beeld ignored it? Rather poor from then.

    For how long exactly did the Sharks think they would be able to keep this a secret? Game starts at 19:00…… 🙄

  • Comment 22, posted at 01.05.10 10:54:18 by FireTheLooser Reply

  • @FireTheLooser (Comment 22) : I’m sure they knew it would come out eventually, but they obviously didn’t want the Bulls to know all about this on Thursday already

  • Comment 23, posted at 01.05.10 11:05:24 by robdylan Reply
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  • Hi Rob
    I have been saying for a while since seeing Burden for the first time that he needs more gametime.Yes Barney and Du Plessis is there but now with Bismark ruled out, will they give him a chance??And if not, reverse it and play him on outside centre.

  • Comment 24, posted at 01.05.10 14:40:17 by REM SS Reply

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