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·         From intensive care to the Rugby Championship… Schalk Burger completes an incredible comeback to pull on Springbok jersey once more

·         ‘I remember the day when my wife phoned and everyone said, listen, this is probably it, it’s time to say goodbye,  but I wasn’t ready to say goodbye’ – reveals Schalk Burger

·        Global TV audience watches Laureus Awards Ceremony in Shanghai

·        TV News Access and Web Edit links at end of press release


SHANGHAI, April 15, 2015 – South African rugby star Schalk Burger received an emotional reception at the Laureus World Sports Awards at the Shanghai Grand Theatre as he accepted the Comeback of the Year Award.


Burger had a cyst next to his spinal cord and went into hospital for treatment, but developedlife-threatening meningitis and was taken to intensive care. Miraculously, he battled for his life and returned to the sport he loves to win his place back in the Springboks rugby team.


Reflecting upon the most serious stage in his time in intensive care, Burger said: “I remember the day where my wife phoned and everyone said, listen, this is probably it, it’s time to say goodbye. I wasn’t ready to say goodbye.


“It was super scary if you think back now.  But when you’re going through the middle of this and there’s no time to think really, there’s no time to think about consequences; it was pretty much just me versus something.”


Burger, also a Laureus Ambassador, transferred his ferocious competitiveness from the rugby pitch to the intensive care unit and with the grit and determination he has been known for throughout his career, he overcame his illness in miraculous style.


He recalled: “The odds weren’t on my side, as I gather.  It’s probably one that I shouldn’t have come out being as normal as I am.  But for me, through a bit of luck and I think through a bit of stubbornness, I was able to pull through.”


Not only did the 31-year-old pull through and pull on the Springbok jersey once again, he was a key member of the squad to play Australia and New Zealand in the Rugby Championship. Then he was named man of the match in the November victory over England at Twickenham, in which he scored the decisive third try.


Laureus World Sports Academy Member and All Blacks rugby legend Sean Fitzpatrick said: “The story of Schalk’s recovery is amazing. He not only survived such a serious illness, but in a relatively short time he was back in the Springboks team and winning matches for them. What a great tribute to his fighting spirit. All he needs now to complete this remarkable comeback is to have a wonderful World Cup later this year.”


Former Springboks captain Morné du Plessis, who was also manager of the 1995 World Cup winning team, said: “I have known Schalk and his family for many years and I know that there were very real concerns for his wellbeing during his illness. It really was a great relief for his family, friends and supporters  to just see him well again, not even to think at that stage that he would make a miraculous comeback and be back to his best on the rugby pitch.”


The Laureus World Sports Awards were unveiled at the Shanghai Grand Theatre. In other categories, Serbia’s  won his second Laureus World Sportsman of the Year Award after another brilliant 12 months which featured a second Wimbledon victory, while Ethiopia’s Genzebe Dibaba was named Laureus World Sportswoman of the Year after breaking three world records in different events in two weeks. She was only the third ever person to achieve that feat in different events, along with athletic giants Jesse Owens and Usain Bolt.


The  was named Laureus World Team of the Year after becoming the first European side to win the FIFA World Cup in South America, while there was a double success for the United States with wheelchair racer winning the Laureus Disability Award and  receiving the Laureus Action Sports Award after his record-breaking freefall from the edge of space.


Australia’s  was named winner of the Laureus World Breakthrough of the Year Award after a brilliant rookie season in which he won three Formula One Grand Prix for Red Bull.


The Awards were announced in seven categories. The full list of winners is:

Laureus World Sportsman of the Year: Novak Djokovic

Laureus World Sportswoman of the Year: Genzebe Dibaba

Laureus World Team of the Year: Germany Men’s Football Team

Laureus World Breakthrough of the Year: Daniel Ricciardo

Laureus World Comeback of the Year: Schalk Burger

Laureus World Sportsperson of the Year with a Disability: Tatyana McFadden

Laureus World Action Sportsperson of the Year: Alan Eustace

There were three additional Awards: theLaureus Spirit of Sport Award was presented to Chinese basketball legend Yao Ming, the  retired tennis star Li Naand the Laureus Sport for Good Award was presented to the worldwide skateboard programme Skateistan.

During the event, it was also announced that Yao Ming and Indian cricket legend Sachin Tendulkar had been elected the newest members of the Laureus World Sports Academy.

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