Matfield's return 'imminent'

Wed, 29 Jan 2014 14:24
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Victor Matfield, who became a father for the third time on Wednesday, is expected to confirm his return to the playing field later this week.

Victor Matfield, who became a father for the third time on Wednesday, is expected to confirm his return to the playing field later this week.

Matfield's name was omitted from the Bulls' team ahead of their warm-up match against the Stormers at the Peter Mokaba Stadium on Saturday, when coach Frans Ludeke unveiled two teams for the trip to Polokwane.

However, at the media briefing it was revealed that will, in all likelihood, receive the go-ahead to make his return to the playing field later this week.

It means Matfield could still make his long-awaited return in his home town, after two years of retirement.

As it is only a warm-up match, Matfield's name can only be added to the team-list once it is confirmed that he may play.

"At the moment we can't comment, but we believe that we will soon be able to confirm [if he can play]," Ludeke said at the team announcement in Pretoria on Wednesday.

While Matfield has been training with the Bulls since last year, the Pretoria side have kept mum whether he has been given the official green light.

Compared to other South African franchises, the Bulls have opted to play only one warm-up match and Ludeke has subsequently named his likely Super Rugby squad for the match against the Stormers.

"We know where we want to go ahead of that first game against the Sharks, and the rationale behind one warm-up game is that our training is very game related," Ludeke said.

"Injuries are a huge risk, it is a long season and we felt [in the past] we built it up to the first game [and] it worked for us.

"The team that will play against the Stormers is more or less the team that will feature against the Sharks [in the Super Rugby opener]."

Ludeke said the reality was that no team would be 100 percent ready for the first game of the season.

He said playing against strong opposition in the Stormers would expose areas of their game where they still needed to make adjustments before the season opener.

While the Bulls have lost a host of senior players at the end of the 2013 Super Rugby season, they could still call on a number of stalwarts going into this year's competition.

The Bulls have selected 10 Springboks in the starting line-up with the team buoyed by the return from injury of captain Pierre Spies, Arno Botha and Deon Stegmann.

Also returning from injury are Louis Fouché and Francois Hougaard, who will make up the halfback combination.

Free State scrumhalf recruit Piet van Zyl will make his debut for the Bulls in the match against the Golden Lions where he will partner with Junior Springbok flyhalf Handre Pollard.

The battle for the No.2 jersey will be a fierce one at the Bulls this year between last year's standout Bongi Mbonambi, Callie Visagie and Bandise Maku.

Visagie seems to have the early edge as he was named in the starting XV against the Stormers with Maku on the bench.

Ludeke said he had a choice of three quality hookers and he would rely heavily on the trio throughout the long season.

"It doesn't matter who starts, the message to them was that we need all three of them and they will all be in the mix," he said.

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