Burger fought through life-threatening meningitis to return to the Springbok team in 2014. Image: Laureus

Laureus Sports Awards: Can Kolisi match Schalk Burger’s comeback story?

Sprinbok captain Siya Kolisi has been nominated in the Comeback of the Year category for the 2024 Laureus Sports Awards.


Burger fought through life-threatening meningitis to return to the Springbok team in 2014. Image: Laureus

The Springbok skipper, currently plying his trade in France, is nominated for a Laureus Sports Award for his miraculous recovery from a partial ligament tear in his knee to lead South Africa to Rugby World Cup glory.

This makes him the second Springbok to show incredible tenacity to return to his team in a relatively short space of time.

Knocking on death’s door

Kolisi’s redemption story makes him the second Springbok to be nominated for the prestigious comeback award.

In 2013, former Springbok flanker Schalk Burger fought through life-threatening meningitis to return to the Springbok team in 2014.

Initially hospitalised for treatment of a cyst near his spinal cord, Burger contracted bacterial meningitis, leading to a critical five-day period of uncertainty.

With doubts about his survival, even his parents were summoned to say their goodbyes. Despite the grave situation, Burger recovered and staged an impressive comeback to be selected for the Springbok squad to play against Australia and New Zealand in the Rugby Championship.

Burger earned man of the match in a November victory over England at Twickenham that same year, where he scored the decisive third try.

He went on to win the 2015 Laureus Award for Comeback of the Year.

South Africa dominates list of Laureus World Sports Awards nominees

Kolisi, along with his Springbok team, sailing sensation Kirsten Neuschafer, and the organisation Justice Desk Africa, are in contention for awards at the prestigious ceremony in April.

The Springboks are nominated for this year’s Laureus World Team of the Year Award, after their remarkable Rugby World Cup victory over New Zealand in October to defend their title.

Their journey included winning a quarter-final against France, a semi-final against England, and the final against New Zealand. All three victories were decided by a single point.

It also marked the team’s second consecutive World Cup win, having triumphed in 2019, and their fourth overall.

In the World Comeback of the Year Award category, Kolisi faces stiff competition from US gymnastics star Simone Biles, among others.

South African sailing sensation Kirsten Neuschafer is shortlisted for the Laureus World Action Sportsperson of the Year Award. Her nomination recognises her historic achievement as the first woman to win a solo round-the-world race via the three Great Capes.

Justice Desk Africa, a prominent South African non-profit organisation, is in the running for the Laureus Sport for Good Award.

The winners will be unveiled on April 22 after a vote by the Laureus World Sports Academy, consisting of 69 esteemed sporting legends.

In the major categories, sportsman of the year nominees include Novak Djokovic, Mondo Duplantis, Erling Haaland, Noah Lyles, Lionel Messi and Max Verstappen.

Sportswoman of the year nominees feature Aitana Bonmati, Shericka Jackson, Faith Kipyegon, Sha’carri Richardson, Mikaela Shiffrin, and Iga Swiatek.

Click here for the full list of nominees.