Sport Champions Cup

Saturday 18 November 2017

Burden eager to go head-to-head with old mentor

Toulon's Craig Burden will face his old master BJ Botha when his side meets Munster on Sunday. Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images
Toulon's Craig Burden will face his old master BJ Botha when his side meets Munster on Sunday. Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images

John Fallon

When BJ Botha moved from Ulster one of his remits was to help young Munster props develop but on Sunday he is going to come up against a winger he helped turn into a hooker.

Craig Burden is also from Durban and having spent his formative years as a winger, he changed to hooker after joining the Sharks where Botha was a huge help. Now the 28-year old protege, who moved to Toulon earlier this season, is going to play against his master for the first time.

"I learnt a hell of a lot from BJ so it's going to be a great experience to play against him," Burden said. "It was a big challenge making the change but I've learnt a hell of a lot from the players that I've played with and the squads that I've been in.

"BJ Botha taught me a lot of things when I made the transition so it will be unusual to play against him."

Botha is also from Durban and Burden spent seven years with the Sharks before moving this season to France. He has settled in quickly and Toulon is everything he expected it would be.

"It's amazingly talented squad," he said. "I've settled in so well. Just the way I was welcomed into the team it made it so much easier just to fit into the squad."

Burden knew little or nothing about French rugby but the transition from South Africa has been made easier because the Cote d'Azur is very like his homeland.

"It's so similar to Durban. We're right on the coast as well, beautiful beaches, fantastic people who are so passionate.

"It's a great lifestyle. The players accepted me into the team and there is so much rugby as we've got two competitions running concurrent with each other."

He said that their bid to retain the Heineken Cup and put successive Top 14 final defeats behind them and capture the Bouclier de Brennus for the first time since 1992 was demanding but they were looking no further than Munster on Sunday.

"We've got to treat it as another game. We know how important it is for the Toulon supporters and we've got to play for them," he said. "We had a good win against Leinster, we know it's a different ball game this weekend and they've got a lot of different strengths all other the field.

"We know what's coming, we know what we've got to deliver as well so it's going to be a hell of a match.

"We know where their strengths are, but I think that we've got a lot of strengths as well so it's just going to be interesting to see who delivers better on their game.

"We know it's going to start off from the off, we know they've got a hell of a pack. We know that old BJ Botha's been playing great rugby, I've played alongside him but at the moment I'm playing alongside Carl Hayman so there's great-quality players on both sides."

Irish Independent

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