Is Matfield having the last laugh?

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iol spt mar25 Matfield Gallo Images Jacques van der Westhuyzen says he was not in favour of Victor Matfield returning to competitive rugby. Picture: Lee Warren/Gallo Images

I wasn’t in favour of Victor Matfield coming out of retirement to play again and I may still not be convinced it was a wise move, but what I’ll accept is that the veteran Springbok lock has been huge for the Bulls in recent weeks.

I’ve always felt that once you’ve decided to call it a day you should stick to your decision. There is, after all, a very good reason why a player decides to go that route in the first place. Also, at Matfield’s age, the mind might still be willing, but the body may not agree with it, and, how does picking a Test veteran who’s been out the game for two years help the development and learning of the youngsters coming through the system?

Furthermore, Matfield’s decision to return to rugby is based largely on him playing for the Boks at next year’s World Cup in England. Now, while he might be extremely fit and playing well at the moment, showing no effects of his two years out of the game, there’s no guarantee that next year at the World Cup, at the age of 38, he’ll be fit and in prime condition.

By all accounts it seems Bok boss Heyneke Meyer will rely heavily on Matfield going forward – be it because of his experience, knowledge or skill – but what if the lock is ruled out of the World Cup weeks or months before the time, what then?

These are the issues I and many others have grappled with since Matfield announced his desire to play at the highest level again.

Of course, a fit and battle-hardened Matfield would always be of benefit to a rugby team and he’s showing that right now.

Yes, the Bulls have turned around a horrible start to their Super Rugby campaign by winning three in a row at Loftus Versfeld, and home ground advantage has played its part, but I think it’s been the elevation of Matfield from the bench to the starting team that’s the main reason for the Bulls’ turnaround.

I’m taking nothing away from any of the Bulls’ senior players, but with Matfield in the team there is a man who the youngsters can look to to give guidance and advice; a man with heaps of experience, knowledge and skill. If Matfield’s on the bench, as he was in the first two Super Rugby games, there isn’t a real go-to man in the Bulls team. I think it’s this element Meyer is looking for in getting Matfield back in the Bok pack.

Whether you’re in favour of Matfield playing again or not, you can’t deny the Bulls are a better team with him in the side. I’ll accept that, too... and the Boks are sure to benefit as well. - The Star



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