BLOEMFONTEIN, South Africa - Springboks flanker Schalk Burger played in a competitive rugby game for the first time in 18 months on Friday after battling injury and serious illness.
The former IRB player of the year and 2007 World Cup winner came off the bench for the last 20 minutes of his Western Province team's come-from-behind 29-27 win over Free State Cheetahs in the Currie Cup, his first match since injuring his knee in the opening round of the Super Rugby season in February 2012.
Along with the knee problem, Burger also struggled with a calf injury, underwent surgery to remove a cyst pressing on his spine and then contracted bacterial meningitis in the hospital.
He needed nearly four months to recover from infection, remaining in the hospital for six weeks and having to stay indoors for another eight weeks after he was released.
The 30-year-old loose forward, capped 68 times for South Africa, last played a Test for the Springboks two years ago.
Burger didn't make any major contributions for his Cape Town-based team after being introduced in the 60th minute in Bloemfontein, but Western Province was trailing the Cheetahs when he came on and ended up winning to stay top of South Africa's domestic Currie Cup standings ahead of the remaining round-eight games.