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Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer will not lure World Cup-winning lock Victor Matfield out of retirement for the three-match Test series against England next month.
The upcoming series against England represents the first step in Meyer’s mission to rebuild the Boks minus the core of the 2007 world championship side, and there has been widespread speculation that the former Bulls coach was eager to underpin his first team announcement since being appointed national coach in January with Matfield’s experience.
However, Meyer confirmed in a BBC radio interview last night that the 110-cap veteran will not be coming out of retirement.
“I did want to play an experienced side, but a lot of players are not available,” Meyer said.
Soon after, the show’s host tweeted: “Heyneke Meyer confirms that SA lock Victor Matfield will not be coming out of retirement for the 3 tests against England next month”.
Matfield headlines a list of experienced campaigners who have either retired or put their international careers on hold, including Gurthrö Steenkamp, John Smit, Bakkies Botha, Danie Rossouw, Butch James and Jaque Fourie.
This will come as good news to Stormers lock Andries Bekker, who is the leading candidate to succeed Matfield in the Bok No 5 jersey, and Bulls jumper Juandre Kruger, who is likely to fill the position on the bench vacated by Bekker.
Meyer’s hopes of assembling a well-organised Bok side for the series-opener on June 9 have been dashed by a Super Rugby schedule that sees the South African contenders engaged in brutal derbies just one week before England jog on to Kings Park, with the Lions hosting the Sharks and the Stormers travelling to face the Bulls on June 2.
“There’s a big concern about the lack of time we have to train together. That’s why it’s difficult to pick a side because there will be injuries after those derbies. It’s not an ideal situation but you can’t make excuses,” he said.
“There’s a lot of respect for England,” added Meyer. “They started slowly at the Six Nations, but grew stronger and stronger during the tournament. It’s going to be a huge challenge for us, but the guys are really motivated to play for South Africa.”
It’s therefore encouraging that scrumhalf Fourie du Preez, arguably the most important component in South Africa’s success since 2004, has made himself available for selection.
Du Preez joined Suntory Sungoliath after the World Cup and helped the side win the Japanese championship.
“I’d be happy to share my experience with the next generation of South African rugby talent and I would like to thank Suntory for granting permission to do so,” Du Preez said.