The unmistakable Burger is one of the stars of the modern game and has been making a sizable impression since bursting onto the international stage. He was part of the South Africa squad that won the IRB U21 World Championship crown in 2002 and was soon rewarded with his Springboks debut at the 2003 Rugby World Cup.
He was 20 years old when made his international bow off the bench against Georgia on 24 October and went on to grab a try in South Africa's 46-19 victory. He featured as a replacement twice more in the tournament before being handed his first start by new coach Jake White against Ireland in the first Test clash of 2004.
He was selected at No.6 (openside flanker in South African rugby) and soon established himself as one of the best in the world. Burger started 11 Tests in 2004, playing a key role in South Africa's first Tri-Nations triumph since 1998 and his impressive performances saw him awarded the IRB Player of the Year honour.
The rising star continued his strong run of form in 2005 making another 11 appearance for the Springboks including a long-awaited away victory in the Tri-Nations against Australia in Perth. His career was threatened in 2006 when he suffered a neck injury in the 29-15 victory over Scotland on 10 June.
The injury required cervical fusion surgery and there were fears that he may never play again - however the subsequent operation was declared a success and he began a long period of rehabilitation. Against the odds he battled back to fitness and returned to the international fray against England on 26 May 2007 - scoring a try in the 58-10 mauling of the tourists.
He continued to impress, grabbing a hat-trick of tries against Namibia in a crushing 105-13 victory in August that year. Unsurprisingly Burger was named as part of the South Africa squad for the 2007 Rugby World Cup but his physical approach to the game got him in trouble in the Boks' first clash against Samoa.
Yellow carded five times in his international career, he escaped immediate punishment for a high tackle on Junior Polu but was later cited and handed a four-match suspension which would have ruled him out of action until the semi-finals.
However his ban was halved on appeal and he returned to the line-up for the match against the USA - notching his 10th career try in the process. He was an ever-present from that point on as the Springboks scored their second Rugby World Cup success - culminating with the victory over England in the final. With the arrival of new coach Peter de Villiers in 2008, Burger retained his place in the Springboks squad.
Following a disappointing Tri Nations in 2008, where the Springboks finished bottom, Burger was included in the touring squad for Tests against Wales, Scotland and England. Burger and the Springboks recorded three wins, including a record 42-6 win over England at Twickenham. At the end of the tour, Burger stayed behind to take his place among the ranks of the Barbarians to play Australia at Wembley.
The following year Burger was selected in the Springboks squad to play against the touring British & Irish Lions. He missed the first test through injury and was replaced by Heinrich Brüssow but he returned in time for the second Test at the Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria. After just 30 seconds Burger was sin-binned for an alleged eye-gouge on Lions wing Luke Fitzgerald. Once he returned he did not have a good game by his standards but the Springboks went onto win the game and therefore the series.
Burger had to appear before a disciplinary panel and was banned for eight weeks despite many critics thinking he should have been handed a stiffer sentence. South Africa coach Peter de Villiers defended the flanks' actions in the post-match press conference and then again a few days later. He said: "Why don't we all go to the nearest ballet shop, get some nice tutus and get some great dancing going on. No eye-gouging, no tackling, no nothing. Then enjoy. But in this game there will be collisions. There are no collisions in ballet."
The South African board made an immediate apology over de Villiers' comments and distanced themselves from what he had said. Five days after the incident Burger denied he was a 'rugby thug' but still had not apologised to Luke Fitzgerald. "I am not a rugby thug and will never intentionally engage in eye-gouging or similar illegal actions. This was also the case in the second Test against the Lions. I am therefore grateful that the judicial officer confirmed my stance with his conclusion that there was no deliberate eye-gouging as charged by the citing official," he said.
Burger made his Super Rugby debut for the Stormers in 2004 and his Currie Cup bow for Western Province the same year. His father, also called Schalk Burger, gained international honours for South Africa during their years of isolation in the 1980s.