One of the most intriguing things about this project so far has been its ability to unearth forgotten stories from Saracens past through relatives contacting us.From the story of Reg Potts’s Bronze medal at the 1912 Olympics and Sydney Sylvester’s annotated first world war diary, they all add to the rich history of Saracens.
One intriguing possibility that has emerged in the last few weeks is that one of the 1906 Springboks – the first UK rugby tour by the newly-united South Africa’s national team – went on to play with Saracens after emigrating to the UK. Family folklore shared with us recently records that William A “Bingo” Burger, recognised as one of the finest Springbok forwards on that 1906 tour, played for Saracens after his move.
The tour had a fine record, beating all the counties they played, as well as Wales and Ireland in the International games, before drawing with England and losing to Scotland.
There is one blemish on their copybook however, as it is believed they refused to play against James Peters, the Devon player and England International, on account of his mixed-race background. (This rumour though is largely unsubstantiated and appears to be an invention of the West Country newspapers).
Burger played with distinction in all 4 internationals, and is often found being praised in match reports for his tough but fair play. Whether he tackled with his face quite as much as our current highly-regarded Saracen, Jacques Burger, is not mentioned!
As yet this Saracens connection is unconfirmed beyond family anecdote, although should any definitive link emerge, it would certainly add the weight of history to Saracens’ South African connections. There will be more updates as and when further evidence emerges…
If you have, or know of anyone who might have, a connection to former Saracens players please do not hesitate to get in contact with Tom and Colin via this website – your reminiscences and insights would be most welcome!