Comfirmation of Matfield’s return immiment

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Victor_Matfield1 INLSA Victor matfield has been training in a bid to get back to playing rugby. Picture: Phill Magakoe

Pretoria – Victor Matfield's name was omitted from the Bulls' team ahead of their first and only warm-up match of the season, but he should later this week receive the go-ahead to make his return to the field.

Bulls coach Frans Ludeke made this announcement on Wednesday, before naming two squads for their pre-season matches in Polokwane against the Golden Lions and the Stormers on Saturday.

Matfield would thus make his long-awaited return to professional rugby 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 in their pre-season, 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 Fouche 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 number-two 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.

The Bulls confirmed on Wednesday that they had signed a contract with utility backline player Jacques-Louis Potgieter until the end of next year's Super Rugby season.

Potgieter, who made his Super Rugby debut for the Bulls in 2007

before moving to the Cheetahs, would provide some much-needed experience at flyhalf in particular.

He returned to the Bulls in 2010 and a year later he signed with the Sharks and had a short stint at Bayonne and Dax in France.

Another addition to the Bulls is that of sports scientist Jannie Botha, who will also act as a mentor, counsellor and life skills coach to the senior squad.

Bulls team v Golden Lions: Clayton Blommetjies, Travis Ismaiel, William Small-Smith, Ulrich Beyers, Jesse Kriel, Handré Pollard, Piet van Zyl, Jacques Engelbrecht, Jacques du Plessis, Jono Ross, David Bulbring, Paul Willemse, Frik Kirsten, Bongi Mbonambi, Marcel vd Merwe.

Replacements: Bandise Maku, Juan Schoeman, Hencus van Wyk, Nicolaas Janse van Rensburg, Wiaan Liebenberg, Rudy Paige, Tian Schoeman, Waylon Murray, Ryan Nell, Jacques-Louis Potgieter.

BULLS TEAM

Jurgen Visser, Akona Ndungane, JJ Engelbrecht, Jan Serfontein, Bjorn Basson, Louis Fouché, Francois Hougaard, Pierre Spies (captain), Arno Botha, Deon Stegmann, Grant Hattingh, Flip vd Merwe, Werner Kruger, Callie Visagie, Dean Greyling. Replacements: Bandise Maku, Marcel vd Merwe, Hencus van Wyk, Jono Ross, Rudy Paige, Handré Pollard, Ulrich Beyers, Travis Ismaiel. – Sapa



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