In A bitter-sweet turn of events for the Bulls before their biggest match in this year’s Super Rugby campaign, former Springbok lock Victor Matfield is to captain the team for the first time in two years in their encounter against the Sharks at Loftus Versfeld tomorrow.
Matfield, 36, who came out of retirement this year, was surprisingly catapulted into leading the Bulls after it was confirmed yesterday that captain Flip van der Merwe had been ruled out of the game due to a hamstring injury.
Van der Merwe was the Bulls’ second captain of the season after regular captain Pierre Spies was ruled out before their match against the Cheetahs, the second match of the campaign.
Spies ruptured a bicep, an injury that will keep him on the sidelines for the remainder of the Super Rugby season.
While Van der Merwe may be back for next week’s match against the defending Super Rugby champions the Chiefs, also at Loftus, his withdrawal from the team will be a big blow as veteran wing Akona Ndungane has also been ruled out following the death and funeral of his father last week.
Van der Merwe’s place in the Bulls’ second row will be taken by the robust Paul Willemse, with Grant Hattingh coming in on the bench in place of Willemse.
But Van der Merwe’s absence may ultimately benefit the Bulls. Matfield’s cult status at Loftus and natural leadership qualities could be the psychological edge the Bulls need to beat the Sharks.
It was Matfield who led the Bulls to three Super Rugby titles in 2007, 2009 and 2010.
He was also instrumental in the Springboks’ 2007 World Cup triumph and at the peak of his powers was arguably the greatest lock to have played the game, and certainly the best of the modern era.
Matfield is the most capped South African player in Super Rugby, with 128 appearances. – Pretoria News