Initially, Burger signs for Lions with a smile and wins: ‘No one remembers a loss’

Burger Odendaal. (Photo by Lee Warren/Gallo Images)

  • Outgoing Lions skipper Burger Odendaal was quietly happy to have won his last home game in the shirt.
  • The 29-year-old center was one of the franchise’s best players in the URC but is now moving to England to join Wasps.
  • His influence was considerable as he played a major role in the Lions’ comeback against Benetton at the weekend.

Caps are a bit thin at Ellis Park these days, which is why a muted Burger Odendaal was content to simply win their last home game in a Lions shirt.

The dependable and underrated midfielder was easily the franchise’s most consistent performer in the inaugural United Rugby Championship campaign and proved a worthwhile investment after being signed from Loftus in mid-2020.

But the 29-year-old will reunite with his former Bulls director of rugby John Mitchell at Wasps in England at the end of the season.

READ | Lions end URC home run on high with win over valiant Benetton

“It was great to get a win,” Odendaal said after the weekend’s 37-29 win over Italian heavyweights Benetton.

“Your last game at your [current] The home pitch is always the one you want to remember with a win. If the last one is a loss, it’s not the one you really want to remember at all. I’m really glad we made it.

“I’m looking forward to my last game [later this month against the Dragons] and we will go with the mindset that we have nothing to lose. We can just go express ourselves.”

Typically, Odendaal was at the heart of one of the game’s most crucial moments, breaking the open side to start the run that allowed winger Edwill van der Merwe to score the try that prompted the return of the Leos.

He also laughed heartily after being asked about the shot he took after the whistle, a decision which backfired when the hosts lost possession and allowed the Italians to score a try bonus points.

“Yeah, unfortunately we couldn’t get that one over the try line,” Odendaal said with a big smile.

“We just gave it a shot. We actually thought if we got a turnover we would do it. It didn’t go our way and they scored. It’s probably not something that we would do in every game.”

Lions head coach Ivan van Rooyen was also pleased with the character shown by his proteges, believing that the platform for the comeback had actually been laid before Odendaal’s contribution, when the dreary half-back van den Berg scored just before the break.

“Right before halftime and the first 10 minutes after halftime probably laid the groundwork for our comeback and kept the momentum going in our direction,” he said.

“If we keep it simple and effective, we look more than decent, so those are just little things we need to work on to make ourselves more consistent.”

Charles P. Patton