Toulon star, Craig Burden, took time out to chat to Benedict Chanakira about going from medical joker to European champion.
Hi Craig, How are you?
I am very well thanks, firstly I must apologies for the late reply and delays. It’s been a unbelievably busy past few weeks. But I’m back in Durban now for a holiday, and loving the break.
How is your french coming along?
My french is coming along slowly but surely. We have a compulsory french lesson every week. There are five players in my class Bakkies, Dannie, Juan Smith , Ali Williams and myself. We not the sharpest group but we trying. It’s a very difficult language to learn, I can understand it to a fair degree but not good enough to hold a decent conversation yet. I know enough to formally greet and introduce myself as well as ask for any help I may need.
Describe France in three words?
Passionate, scenic, tranquil.
From a medical joker to a European Champion. How is it that fairytale?
It has been a unbeleivable journey for me this season. A fantastic experience, I couldn’t have asked for more. I came into a side with players decorated with honors of the highest and I have been very fortunate to have become a member of this successful team.
Established as one of the most athletic hookers in the world. Happy to have left the fairies (backline) ?
Haha not sure I would classify Bastareaud as a fairy. At 125 kg he’s a fair bit heavier than a fairy. I’m really happy I made the switch and have enjoyed the challenge that lay ahead. It was tough and I had to do a hell of a lot of work on the side to try make my transition a success but I’m pleased with where I ended up given the amount of work if put in.
Is it true you were the fastest and strongest Sharks player in the squad? Even stronger than Beast?
(Chuckles) Lwazi And Hoff(Ryan Kankowski) would definitely challenge my answer, I would like to think I was right up there over 10m, anything further Hoff and Lwazi would clean me up. On a normal day in the gym I’d probably push more weight than Beast however I do know that if you had to flick Beasts’ switch get him fired up, there is no weight close to heavy enough for him in the gym.
What is Jonny Wilkinson like?
Jonny Wilkinson is without a doubt the most professional athlete I have ever met. He is a true role model and a prime example of how any rugby player wanting to achieve top honors should train. He is the best in the business and yet still trains the longest and hardest out of anyone in the Toulon squad. He is treated like royalty in Toulon and yet he is probably the most humble guy I have ever met.
Your highlight playing in the Black and white jersey?
Every single game was special for me, I literally got goosebumps every time I pulled on the shark jerseys and ran out in front of the crowd.
If you could go back into the past and change one thing in your career, what would it be?
Nothing, you learn front your mistakes and celebrate your success.
How did it feel being in the Springbok camp in 2012?
It was a fantastic experience, every South African rugby players’ dream is to one day represent their country so to be even called up to be a part of the squad was a absolute honor.
You put a massive hit on Schalk Brits not once, twice. Was that your biggest?
Haha yes was one of my biggest. Had a beer and a chat with him after the game. Great guy
Who has influenced your career the most?
I would have to say my family they have been there for me throughout my career and always supporting me.
Top 14, Super Rugby or Heineken Cup?
They are all completely different and unique in their own ways. Heineken Cup and Super Rugby in my mind are both played at a much faster pace and intensity in comparison to the Top 14 which is a lot slower with more emphasis put on the break downs and scrums. Yet in terms of support I’ve never played in front of such a big crowd as we did for the Top 14 final which was just over 82 000.
Can we get a World XV and coach from you?
To be honest I would literally rename the Toulon team that I’ve been playing for. The way they have accepted and welcomed me into their team has been unbelievable. I would take each one of them to war with me, they have each earned my utmost respect on the field. I will however say that I would definitely want to include Beast, Bismark and Eben into my side. Coach I would select Nick Mallet.
A message to the Sharks faithful and your fans.
I would definitely like to thank all the Sharks supporters for the amazing years I’ve had playing in front of them. Thy really are a unbelievably passionate bunch and have left me with unforgettable memories to take away from the shark tank. Keep the support.