Matfield a step closer to Bok recall
Mon, 19 May 2014 07:30
It's always good to have depth in key positions
It may not be a state secret, but Victor Matfield is now, more that ever, likely to feature for the Springboks in their June Tests.
Just like a suspension forced the Bulls' hand in Super Rugby, injuries are likely to prompt Bok coach Heyneke Meyer to lean on the experience of the World Cup-winning lock to help out in the second row.
Meyer, in part two of his interview with rugby365, admitted that injuries have played a role in his thought processes and that Matfield is definitely in line for a Test recall two years after announcing his retirement in 2011.
"I've always maintained our depth at No.5 lock in South Africa isn't great," Meyer told this website.
"Pieter-Steph du Toit has a long-term injury, while two experienced players in this position - Andries Bekker [on a self-imposed exile] and Juandré Kruger - are now playing abroad. Johann Muller has also just retired from the game."
The Bok coach said he has been impressed with the Super Rugby form of Matfield, who turned 37 last week.
"Victor has done well since his return for the Bulls," Meyer said.
"Like I've said from the first day when he came back - he will be considered along with all other eligible players, provided he can show us he wants to play for the Boks and he is still capable of performing at the top level," the Bok mentor added.
Matfield, who was scheduled for a month-long break on the Bulls' Australasian tour, was forced back into action after a three-week ban was slapped on his fellow Bok and regular Bulls captain Flip van der Merwe.
While van der Merwe was sitting on the sidelines, Matfield captained the Bulls to narrow bonus-point defeats against the Highlanders, Waratahs and Western Force, before returning home where they returned to their winning ways with victories over the Cheetahs and Stormers.
At the same time Van der Merwe also received treatment for a hamstring strain and he is likely to be back in the fray when the Bulls take on the Brumbies in a Super Rugby crunch at Loftus Versfeld on Friday.
Bulls coach Frans Ludeke admitted their hand was forced when Van der Merwe was banned on tour.
"We had to make some adjustments," Ludeke told rugby365, adding that until Van der Merwe returned it was "vital" that they had Matfield's leadership there, as well as his "impact as a player".
The Bulls will have a tough decision to make this week, with a lock partnership of Matfield (at No.5) and Van der Merwe (No.4) an option against the Brumbies.
But it is also a fact that Matfield may be in need of a break ahead of his Bok return in June.
* It is not just when looking at his lock stocks that the Bok coach, Meyer, will be holding his breath and hoping for the best.
Injuries have also ravaged the openside flanks, prompting calls for him to have a look at the Cheetahs' star flank Heinrich Brüssow.
Incumbents Francois Louw, Marcell Coetzee and Siya Kolisi have all spent some time on the sidelines with injuries this year.
"Marcell will be back in a couple of weeks' time," Meyer told this website, adding: "Francois is back in training already. They both should be fit to play for us in June.
"They have performed very well for us in recent seasons and last year Siya Kolisi also came through strongly, while Schalk Burger is playing brilliant rugby and is a versatile back row forward.
"But it's always good to know there is depth available in key positions," Meyer said, when asked about Brüssow's prospects of a recall.
By Jan de Koning
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