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'F****** bonkers': Freddie Burns reflects on 'tough' Super Rugby move

By Finn Morton
(Photo by James Allan/Getty Images)

Former England international Freddie Burns has always wanted to “have a crack” at Super Rugby, and was able to realise that dream last weekend.


Burns will forever hold a special place in the hearts of Leicester Tigers supporters, after drop kicking the team to Gallagher Premiership glory in last year’s final.

But at 32 years old, the veteran flyhalf had an opportunity to ply his trade in a rugby mad nation at the bottom of the world.

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Burns was left in tears ahead of his final match for the Leicester Tigers in January, before heading to New Zealand after signing with the Highlanders.

While the announcement came as a surprise to many, the star pivot is eager to make the most of his opportunity with the Dunedin-based franchise.

Reflecting on his move from England to the south of New Zealand, Burns described the last few weeks as “f****** bonkers.”

“It’s been f****** bonkers to be fair,” Burns told RugbyPass.

“From that last game at Leicester to packing the house up and then to fly down and getting straight in, it has been tough but the boys have been great, the coaches have been great.


“There was a real good group down here and everyone wants the best for each other, and they’ been a great helping me settle in.

“As a flyhalf it’s definitely… it is good that you know everyone’s name and all that sort of stuff. I’m getting there. Even the lingo and stuff like that is different.

“It’s been a whirlwind, it’s been tough, but it’s been a challenge that I’ve enjoying and I’m just looking forward to getting more gametime and just growing.

“That’s all I can do right now is attack everything, attack every training session and attack every game.


“There’s going to be a walking period before I run, hopefully that’s as short as possible, but just accepting the fact that it’s not going to be perfect and there’s going to be times when you’re just gonna have to roll with the punches.”

While Burns is excited about the season ahead with the Highlanders, his Super Rugby debut didn’t quite go to plan.

Following a short preseason of sorts with the team, the 32-year-old was named in the No. 22 jersey – and made his debut off the bench in the 64th minute.


But by that stage, the Highlanders were trailing 20-41 in front of their home fans – and there was plenty of them, as students continued to enjoy orientation week along with their peers.

As the Blues continued to unleash a point scoring blitz upon their New Zealand rivals, Burns noticed some key differences between northern and southern hemisphere rugby.

“It was very quick. I think the new law interpretations sort of lend its hand to that so it’s like you almost can’t take it for like for like or do too big of a comparison,” he added.

“The ball in play time has gone up massively with the new laws… all that sort of stuff lends its hands to it being quite hard to compare.

“It’s definitely quicker, definitely more emphasis on moving the ball and creating one-on-ones rather than maybe the structured kicking game.

“The bit that probably stood out most for me was at 31-20, the Blues got a penalty and I think in England you’d take the three-points there to try and get to the 14-point mark, but they stuck it in the corner.

“It’s that relentless pursuit to score tries and really accumulate the scoreboard that way.

“I’m always learning, I learn every day here.”

But as Super Rugby fans know, it doesn’t get much tougher than the Crusaders – who the Highlanders are set to face in Melbourne in round two.

With 16 minutes under his belt, Burns has been named to start in the No. 10 jersey, while former Crusader Mitch Hunt has been relegated to the bench.

Burns is looking forward to the challenge that awaits his side, as they look to pile on the misery for the Crusaders following their 31-10 loss to the Chiefs on Friday.

“That’s the excitement of it, we’re coming into his game off the back of a big loss,” he added. “Sometimes I think it’s the perfect tonic to get back on it.

“The main thing for us is we weren’t a million miles away against the Blues, and as much as the scoreboard… you have to look at rugby games as performances.

“When I was younger I got very caught up in the result, whereas now you look at the performance.


“There’s a lot of positives that we need to take into this Crusaders game… it’s a great challenge.

“To be sat here now about to board a flight to Melbourne to play the Crusaders is something I never thought I’d say in my career.

“For me personally and the team, I think there’s huge excitement to test yourself against the best again and just see where we’re at.”

Every Super Rugby team will take the field at Melbourne’s AAMI Park this weekend for Super Round.

Across three nights, eight games will be played – including a mouth-watering blockbuster between the Highlanders and Crusaders on Friday.


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Shaylen 3 hours ago
Ireland and South Africa share the same player development dilemma

These guys will be utility players Nick it cannot be helped because coaches cannot help themselves. Rassie looks at players like these and sees the ability to cover multiple positions without losing much. It allows the 6-2 or 7-1. He wont change his coaching style or strategy for one player. At provincial level players like these are indispensable. If there is an injury to your starting 12 but your back up 12 is a bit iffy then a coach is going to go with the back up 10 who is gold and who can play a good 12. Damian Willemse for the Springboks is an obvious case, for the Stormers its the same. Dobson plays him at 12 or 15, with Gelant in the team he plays 12 but if Gelant goes down he doesnt go for his back up 15, he just puts Willemse there. With Frawley its the same at international and provincial level. He just slots in wherever. Frans Steyn made a career out of it. He was much maligned though as a youngster as he never fully developed into any role. He then went to Japan and France to decide for himself what kind of player he was, put on muscle and retained his big boot, ran over players and booted the ball long and came back into the Springboks after about 3 years away and was then certain about how he wanted to play the game no matter what position. Coaches cannot help themselves because they only want what is best for their teams and that means putting your most talented players on even if it means you cause them some discomfort. Sometimes players need to decide how they want to play the game and then adapt that to every position and let the coach decide how they want to use them.

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Jon 9 hours ago
Ireland and South Africa share the same player development dilemma

I think the main problem here is the structure of both countries make up. They are going to have very similar.. obstacles(not problems). It will just be part of the evolution of their rugby and they’ll need to find a way to make this versatility more advantageous than specialization. I think South Africa are well on the way to that end already, but Ireland are more likely to have a hierarchical approach and move players around the provinces. Ioane is going to be more than good enough to lock up one of those available positions for more than a few years I believe though. Morgan would definitely be a more long term outlook. Sacha to me has the natural footwork of a second five. Not everything is about winning, if a team has 3 players that want to play 10s just give them all a good go even if its to the detriment of everyone, this is also about dreams of the players, not just the fans. This is exactly how it would be in an amateur club setting. Ultimately some players just aren’t suited to any one position. The example was of a guy that had size and speed, enough pace to burn, power to drive, and speed to kick and pass long, but just not much else when it came to actual rugby (that matched it). New Zealand has it’s own example with Jordie Barrett and probably shows what Reece Hodge could have been if the game in Australia had any administration. Despite the bigger abundance of talent in NZ, Jordie was provided with consistent time as a fullback, before being ushered in as a second five. Possibly this was due to his blood, and another might not have been as fortunate, but it is what it was, a complete contrast to how Hodge was used in Australia, were he could have had any position he wanted. When it comes down to it though, much like these young fellas, it will be about what they want, and I think you’ll find they’ll be like Hodge and just want to be as valuable to the team as they can and play wherever. It’s not like 63 International Cap is a hard thing to live with as a result of that decision!

32 Go to comments
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