Springbok lock Victor Matfield will return to his hometown, Polokwane (formerly Pietersburg), to play rugby there for the first time in almost 13 years – when he captains the Bulls against the Cheetahs in a Super 14 pre-season outing at the Peter Mokaba stadium.
Rugby 365′s Jan de Koning writes that the Bulls and sometimes Springbok captain said he expects it to be a “special occasion” when they run out to a near sell-out crowd at the 40,000-seater stadium.
Matfield, who was the first player to lead a team to victory against the All Blacks in New Zealand since Martin Johnson (England) did so in 2003 and captained the team to the first ever Springbok victory in Dunedin, said he is eager to get back on the playing field.
“I had a very good off-season and I’m feeling good,” he told rugby365.com during a break in training.
“It has been a while since I have had any rugby, so I am looking forward to the game on Friday … just so I can play some rugby,” the lanky lock added.
But it is the opportunity to play in the Far North, Limpopo province, again that really excites Matfield.
“It was last when I was in matric [at Hoërskool Pietersburg in 1995],” Matfield said when asked about his last rugby match in Polokwane.
“I am really looking forward to it, because my family all still live there and it would be nice to play there again,” he said, adding: “It will be special for the rest of the team as well.”
The Peter Mokaba Stadium, which has been upgraded in preparation for the 2010 FIFA World Cup, will host a near sell-out crowd of 40,000 on Friday night – something which excites Matfield.
“It is the first time that there’s so much focus on one of our pre-season fixtures, he told rugby365.com.
“It will be a great atmosphere for the players,” he said, adding that the Bulls will get to meet and entertain a section of their large fan base that they don’t often see.
“In the city you don’t always realise the following you have [in the country regions], but once the players get into the rural areas they will appreciate what support they have and how important they are as a team to the people,” Matfield added.
Matfield is not the only member of the Bulls squad that will have a ‘homecoming’ party on Friday.
Bulls coach Frans Ludeke grew up in Polokwane and he is also extremely excited about the prospect of playing there on Friday.
“The people of Polokwane have always been fanatic Bulls supporters and I remember as a kid how we used to follow the Bulls. In our minds there was only one team in South Africa and the town was always firmly behind the Bulls,” Ludeke said.
“It is as if the hearts of the people of Polokwane are involved with the Bulls and we are very thankful for their loyal support.
“Polokwane is also one of the countries finest rugby factories and year after year they produce players for the Blue Bulls but also for the other provinces.”
Matfield, who missed the 2008 Super 14 season when he was at Toulon in France on a six-month contract, said he was looking forward to helping the Bulls regain the heights of 2007 – when they won the Super 14.
He said the rugby he experienced in France, when Toulon was still in the Second Division, can’t compare with the Super 14.
“It was not on par,” he said of playing in the Pro D2 league.
“I could feel it when I returned [to South Africa], it took me a game or two to get adjusted.
“Now I have had a good few internationals and a Currie Cup season behind me, so I am really looking forward to playing Super 14 again,” Matfield added.Tweet