Rugby World Cup winner Schalk Burger has given Eddie Jones’ England a seal of approval, suggesting they are a lot like the Springboks he won the 2007 showpiece with.
Burger, who won 86 caps for South Africa during a glittering 12-year Test career, says he can see “a lot of similarities” between Jones’ England group and how the Springboks bounced back from World Cup disappointment in 2003 to lift the trophy four years later.
South Africa made a quarter-final exit from the tournament that England won 13 years ago, but they soon regrouped under Jake White – and then Jones in an assistant coach’s capacity – to be crowned 2007 world champions.
Since England made a miserable pool stage exit under Stuart Lancaster from the 2015 World Cup they hosted, Jones has led a stunning transformation by masterminding nine successive victories, including a Six Nations Grand Slam and 3-0 Test series triumph against Australia.
And Burger, who now packs down with the likes of England powerhouses Billy Vunipola, Maro Itoje and Mako Vunipola at Aviva Premiership champions Saracens, acknowledges it is an exciting time.
“These players are good players,” he said. “I am playing with the core of England’s forward pack, and I think they are hungry for success.
“I think after the (2015) World Cup, these guys were ready to take the next step. Obviously, that World Cup was a massive disappointment.
“I went through that in 2003 when we got knocked out and Jake White took over a young squad eager to improve, and Eddie was off the back of that in 2007 when he was assistant to Jake and eventually we won it. So I see a lot of similarities with this England group.”
Saracens are just three games into their domestic season, but they remain unbeaten in pursuit of a possible third successive Premiership title – a 27-12 victory over Northampton being their latest success – and Burger has been impressed by what he has seen.
“It has been really enjoyable,” he said. “I have played Super Rugby for many years, and it has a different allure to it. You spend your energy on different things.
“Here, we have a pretty technical game, so it was important for me to learn how Saracens play. Luckily for me it has been pretty seamless. They are a great bunch of boys, which makes it easier to settle.”