Victor Matfield’s days as Springbok lock forward are by no means numbered. The World Cup star could well be in the starting line-up when South Africa and Wales meet in Pretoria on Saturday.
“Victor is an important part of our plans,” the SA team’s spokesperson, Chris Hewitt, said on Sunday. “It was not a case of empty words when it was said last week.”
Stephen Nell writes in Die Burger that it has been confirmed that Matfield took over the captaincy when John Smit went off in the second half of the first Test in Bloemfontein at the weekend.
Matfield took the field early in the second half when he replaced Andries Bekker, who had made a satisfactory Test debut.
Bekker, among other things, snatched the Welsh lineout throw that set up Conrad Jantjes’s important try.
After beating the Welsh 43-17 in the first Test, the Springboks are the overwhelming favourites to seal a series victory at Loftus Versfeld.
New Springbok coach Peter de Villiers, who passed his first test with distinction, is unlikely to make many changes to a winning team
However, Matfield’s experience can be crucial in Pretoria, where the Bulls fans will be eager to welcome him back from France, where he spent the first half of the year playing for Toulon.
Lot of rugby left in him
De Villiers will also have to decide whether he should bring back scrumhalf Ricky Januarie, who was omitted from the team for the Bloemfontein Test for disciplinary reasons.
Bolla Conradie used the opportunity to prove that, at 30 years of age, he still had a lot of rugby left in him.
Now that Januarie, the best SA scrumhalf in the Super 14 competition, has served his punishment, De Villiers will have to weigh his options at No 9 ahead of the more challenging Tri-Nations series.
Sharks eighthman Ryan Kankowski could also come into contention for the Loftus Test. Pierre Spies did well in Bloemfontein but a place on the bench for Kankowski may be an option.
However, the Test against Italy later this month will leave some room for experiments.
Smit and Percy Montgomery, who have commitments abroad, are unavailable for the match against the Italians. Bismarck du Plessis will probably take over at hooker, giving Schalk Brits an opportunity to make his Test debut off the bench.
Tighthead prop Brian Mujati was an easy target after South Africa’s front-row problems in the first Test but it should be remembered that scrums are a collective effort.
De Villiers had selected several new combinations for the Bloemfontein Test and it should not be held against the players that they did not exert authority in every facet from the outset.
It was Mujati’s Test debut and he certainly deserves another opportunity.
The Springboks suffered no serious injuries in Bloemfontein and with so many options available to De Villiers, the World Cup champions could hardly be in a stronger position going into the second Test.Tweet