Some perspective on the Matfield saga

Written by Rob Otto (robdylan)

Posted in :Original Content, Sharks, Springboks, Super Rugby on 18 Apr 2012 at 08:01
Tagged with : , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Nothing like a little bit of misinformation and conjecture to liven up an otherwise-dull Tuesday, eh? That seemed to be very much the case yesterday as the South African rugby world tied itself into a frenzy about a ridiculously premature – if not outright fanciful – story that Victor Matfield was about to join the Sharks.

There are many sides and angles to this tale and I’d like to talk a little about each of them; I suppose what I’m trying to say is that this may end up being quite a long article, so please do indulge me!

Firstly, there is very little doubt that Matfield is at least considering, if not already actively planning, a comeback to the game. The reason for that is quite simple, to my mind. Vic had retired and started to forge a new career and a new life for himself, but his friend and mentor Heyneke Meyer has asked him to come back and the bond between the two men, I understand, is such that Matfield could never dismiss such a request out of hand. Meyer’s approach ahead of the England series – and in fact his entire first year at the helm of Bok rugby – would appear to be a low-risk one and while he may not be winning too many friends outside of Pretoria with it right now, we must ever be mindful of how quickly public opinion can turn against a Bok coach should the mighty green and gold lose so much as a single test match. Meyer is the bloke who’s going to have to live and die by the team’s results and while I can’t say I’m relishing the idea of him packing the team with “Bulls has-beens”, I do completely understand that he would want to surround himself with players he knows and trusts while learning the ropes of test rugby.

Victor Matfield – and to a lesser extent Fourie du Preez – are a huge part of that and if there’s any chance that the new coach can coax his former lieutenants back onto the field of battle, that’s exactly what he’s going to endeavour to do. In Matfield’s case, though, it’s not all that straightforward to achieve, as the man is now employed by SuperSport as an analyst and would need to find a way to be released from that contract in order to play. Presumably, he’d want to do so in such a way that the broadcaster would be willing to take him back in a year or two’s time, though, meaning that he’s not going to burn any bridges by simply walking out on his commitment. I’m reliably told that Victor is definitely weighing up all these factors and considering his options. The good money would probably be on a playing return, but my information is that any speculation regarding where he might play provincially is completely premature at this stage.

For the record, I honestly do feel that Matfield could still have something to offer Bok rugby as a player, particularly in light of the second-row crisis that swept the land since the start of Super Rugby. I’m not going to list all the casualties – hell, going through the locks lost by just the Lions this season would take up a page and a half on its own – but with the oft-injured Andries Bekker this week adding his name to the list, Bok rugby is hardly overflowing with quality second-rowers who are fit. Of the youngsters sticking their hands up, it must be remembered that Eben Etzebeth and Juandre Kruger have fewer than 20 Super Rugby appearances between them and nary a test cap in sight. While it would be nice to blood both of them to test rugby this year, I doubt Meyer has any plans to entrust an uncapped lock pair with starts against England. Should he lose Bekker, though, or Flip van der Merwe, that’s exactly what he may be forced to do. By turning to the likes of Matfield, Bakkies Botha and Danie Rossouw, Meyer will know that he’s only delaying the inevitable rather than solving the problem. With the public expecting a big series win over England, though, can you blame the coach for wanting to buy himself some time?

Let’s talk about the Sharks angle, then. When the Matfield return was first mooted, the obvious thing to do would be to look for a place for him to play and with Kruger doing well for the Bulls, the speculation started to run wild. The Cheetahs and Sharks – not having a fit, established option in the number 5 jersey at present – seemed to pop onto the radar and a bunch of journalists in Durban, including the ever on-the-ball Mike Greenaway, picked up on the theme and ran with it, including, it would seem, raising the possibility with the Sharks. Reading between the lines of Greenaway’s article, the suggestion was given short shrift by the Sharks, leading me to conclude that if there is currently any interest in a move, it would be coming from Matfield’s side at this stage, not from the Sharks. Only problem is, according to my information, it’s not… Matfield is still a good few steps away from “asking a team for game time”, for the reasons already described above.

Yesterday’s Twitter story about Matfield being spotted having coffee with Plumtree in Durban was a fabrication. We acted quickly to set the record straight, because we knew it couldn’t have taken place as described for the simple reason that Matfield was in Pretoria all day. The bloke who tweeted the allegation seems to have become a mini celebrity overnight and I’m choosing to believe that he was simply mistaken, perhaps confusing Matfield and Ross Skeate, as one pundit suggested, who do look similar from afar, rather than setting out to deliberately mislead. The real damage was done when others whose voices and opinions and more trusted chose to rebroadcast the incorrect information without checking its veracity first. The first rule of any form of journalism, I would think, is to check the information you disseminate for at least some semblance of truth and in this case the “some bloke on Twitter said so” defence seems a little bit thin.

Would the Sharks actually want Matfield, though? That’s a question that, in itself, has multiple aspects to consider. It’s probably fair to say that it would help to have his experience available, given that both Hargreaves and Skeate are long-term casualties. I wouldn’t dismiss this out of hand, since he could bring a huge amount to the team if used correctly. Whether the management, coaches, fellow players and fans could ever accept this as a workable option, though, would depend on the extent to which they could be convinced that Matfield would be committed to doing what’s right for the Sharks first and foremost. We already know that his primary motivation for playing there would be to advance his own personal agenda and that facet, coupled with deep-rooted feelings that whatever colour jersey he may wear on the outside, Matfield will always be wearing blue underneath, would make this an incredibly tough package to sell to the Sharks faithful.

I’m not holding my breath, in other words, for an announcement that Victor Matfield will play for the Sharks – not one from a source I trust anyway. Then again, a week is a long time in rugby and you can rest assured that we’ll keep you posted on this one if it develops further or, more likely, fizzles out. I can assure you, though, that we’ll do a better job of reporting the true events than other sources seem content to do.


  • Matfield is also working with the bulls as lineout specialist and I believe with all the losses in their coaching team that they will not release him from his contract to go play for another union,IMO

  • Comment 1, posted at 18.04.12 08:13:29 by juba_fan Reply
  • Please don’t come to the Sharks. If I could have it my way I’d have him stay retired. Heyneke needs to start building a team for the next World Cup.

    This is exactly what I feared might happen when Heyneke was appointed as Bok coach. FdP is past it imo and our best option at 9 will be Francois Hougaard going forward.

  • Comment 2, posted at 18.04.12 08:20:03 by Ben Reply
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  • @Ben (Comment 2) : From the articles I’ve read FDP is apparently back to his best. If he is then it wouldn’t be the worst thing for him to be a part of the Bok set-up for the short term to mentor the new guys.

    As far as Victor goes, I think he’s now past it and he could add more value as a coach than a player.

  • Comment 3, posted at 18.04.12 08:28:21 by StevieS Reply
  • Well now Rob, you made pretty sure not to leave out any ifs and buts. Nice article, thanks!

  • Comment 4, posted at 18.04.12 08:28:41 by Die Kriek Reply

  • @Ben (Comment 2) : I don’t disagree with you on Matfield but who would you play at 5 for the Boks? Bearing in mind Bekker is another injury waiting to happen. Fourie might have needed a break more than anything.

  • Comment 5, posted at 18.04.12 08:31:26 by war1 Reply
  • @war1 (Comment 5) : Bekker and Kruger would be the 2 I’d have in my team to play England in the upcoming tests.

    FdP has been past it for the last 2 years at least. Really think we will benefit much more by playing Hougaard at 9.

  • Comment 6, posted at 18.04.12 08:41:29 by Ben Reply
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  • My first instinct is to refuse Matfield entry to KZN.

    Could you guys see yourselves supporting the figure head of Bulls Rugby?

    Having said that, maybe then we`ll find out if the rumours were true about that alleged ” steel plate” strapping on his arm? 😈

    Also we won`t only get Matfield, remember wherever he goes, Craig Joubert and Marius Jonker is part of the package . . .

  • Comment 7, posted at 18.04.12 08:52:21 by Original Pierre Reply
    Original Pierre
  • I wouldn’t say no to Matfield playing with the Sharks. If anything Bresler and Marias and even Steph Du Toit will pick up some valuable lessons from him.

    He was the best lock in south Africa and the world for years, and it’s not like our locks are delivering stand out performances each week. I know they’re still young and still growing, but like I said, this might do them more good than bad.

    I don’t really care for the idea of bringing a player back from retirement to help out your Bok team. I think Andries Bekker and a few of the young players out there has shown more that they are more than capable to hold their own in tough games.

  • Comment 8, posted at 18.04.12 08:59:51 by Letgo Reply
    Friend of Sharksworld Author
  • @StevieS (Comment 3) : Back to his best in Japan means even less than a South African suddenly finding form in Europe.

  • Comment 9, posted at 18.04.12 09:10:20 by KSA Shark © Reply

    KSA Shark ©
  • @Ben (Comment 6) : I would too but Bekker is just so injury prone. If Bekker is fit then there is absolutely no reason for Matfield to make a comeback.

  • Comment 10, posted at 18.04.12 09:17:17 by war1 Reply
  • @war1 (Comment 10) : Yeah that sucks. Andries is brilliant when he’s at full fitness. Hoping for the best.

  • Comment 11, posted at 18.04.12 09:19:31 by Ben Reply
    Friend of Sharksworld Author
  • Hold on to your seats.

    I have no issues with Matfield coming back and playing for the Boks. He IS better than what we have as backup to Bekker who is the current best IMO.

    I have issues with him leading the Boks though, he sucks at that. That said who else could lead them?

    Burger throws his toys like a child to easily.
    Brussouw is not experienced enough.
    That only leaves JdV IF he is fit.

    I would be happy with JdV, but will he be the 1st choice 12 ahead of Steyn? So who will it be if not Matfield?

    NO to Matfield as Captain, but yes as a player because he is one of the best. (and if it keeps him away from a microphone to do commentary then that is an added bonus. 🙂 )

    NO to FdP as anything he has been past it for ages. Hougaard is twice as good (no that is not hyperbole)

  • Comment 12, posted at 18.04.12 09:24:03 by KSA Shark © Reply

    KSA Shark ©
  • @StevieS (Comment 3) : I hear you, but how competitive is Japan’s league when compared to the SR? In a weaker league I am sure even Bondesio may look good. As we saw with Marius Joubert 😈

  • Comment 13, posted at 18.04.12 09:26:40 by Sharksmad - The Blog's Dudette Reply

    Sharksmad - The Blog's Dudette
  • @KSA Shark © (Comment 12) : we could always get Pierre Spies to captain… :mrgreen:

  • Comment 14, posted at 18.04.12 09:26:46 by robdylan Reply
    Competition Winner Administrator
  • @Sharksmad – The Blog’s Dudette (Comment 13) : the jury is out as to whether Marius actually looked good, even in France 🙂

  • Comment 15, posted at 18.04.12 09:28:33 by robdylan Reply
    Competition Winner Administrator
  • How old is Victor now by the way?

  • Comment 16, posted at 18.04.12 09:29:34 by Ben Reply
    Friend of Sharksworld Author
  • @Ben (Comment 16) : he’s a few months older than me, I think… makes him 34

  • Comment 17, posted at 18.04.12 09:30:31 by robdylan Reply
    Competition Winner Administrator
  • @robdylan (Comment 15) : Watched 2 or 3 games when Marius played in France. He looked pretty awful.

  • Comment 18, posted at 18.04.12 09:32:32 by Ben Reply
    Friend of Sharksworld Author
  • Maybe Supersport could wire Victor up with an earpiece under his scrumcap, like they sometimes do (did) in cricket, and he could play the game whilst giving his analysis. Just a thought….

  • Comment 19, posted at 18.04.12 09:33:44 by Pat Reply

  • @robdylan (Comment 17) : Thanks. Seriously doubt he’ll play in the next World Cup then. Hope he stays retired.

  • Comment 20, posted at 18.04.12 09:34:44 by Ben Reply
    Friend of Sharksworld Author
  • @robdylan (Comment 17) :

    Youngsters!!! 😀

  • Comment 21, posted at 18.04.12 09:42:54 by Pokkel Reply
    Friend of SharksworldCompetition Winner Author
  • I’ve thought this through. Who remembers Johan Ackerman? Came out of retirement and ended up playing until 38? Albert van den Berg played well into his 30s too. I wouldn’t object to Victor playing for either the Sharks or the Boks, if his play is of such a standard that he can hold down a place in the team, and his fitness and conditioning is up to par. I read somewhere that he’s trimmed down a bit since retiring and weighs around the 100kgs mark? Any truth to that?

  • Comment 22, posted at 18.04.12 09:54:24 by The Quirk Reply
    The Quirk
  • 100kgs, thats about the requirement for a Sharks lock isn’t it. 😈

  • Comment 23, posted at 18.04.12 10:29:41 by Salmonoid Reply
    Friend of Sharksworld
    Salmonoid the Subtle
  • @Salmonoid (Comment 23) : Matfield never weighed much more than that anyway

  • Comment 24, posted at 18.04.12 10:31:00 by robdylan Reply
    Competition Winner Administrator
  • @robdylan (Comment 24) : Maybe he was a closet Shark all the time then.

  • Comment 25, posted at 18.04.12 10:33:34 by Salmonoid Reply
    Friend of Sharksworld
    Salmonoid the Subtle
  • @Salmonoid (Comment 25) : go check his Wikipedia page…

  • Comment 26, posted at 18.04.12 10:38:59 by robdylan Reply
    Competition Winner Administrator
  • @Ben (Comment 11) : Or when he actualy goes into a ruck….

  • Comment 27, posted at 18.04.12 11:09:35 by Uli Reply
    Valued Sharksworld Supporter
    Uli Boelie
  • Matfield said today he’ll never play for anyone other than the Bulls. So there you have it,

  • Comment 28, posted at 18.04.12 17:36:18 by robdylan Reply
    Competition Winner Administrator
  • @robdylan (Comment 28) : Thank Goodness!

  • Comment 29, posted at 18.04.12 18:03:39 by Ben Reply
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