Johannesburg – Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer on Friday welcomed Victor Matfield’s return after it was confirmed that the 110-times capped lock would be back on the playing field in Super Rugby for the Bulls this season.
Matfield, who played his last Test for the Springboks at the 2011 Rugby World Cup in New Zealand, captained the Pretoria-based franchise to all three of their titles in Super Rugby – in 2007, 2009 and 2010.
Meyer said he was happy that Matfield had decided to make a return to playing the game after coaching at the Bulls last season.
“I have always maintained that we have a lack of depth at five lock and believed that Victor could still make a valuable contribution as a player,” Meyer said in a statement.
“I’m glad that Victor has decided to put on his boots again and I’m looking forward to seeing him in action. He was not given any guarantees about Springbok selection. If he can show he still has what it takes to be a Springbok, he will be considered, along with every other player who is eligible to play for South Africa.”
Meyer said Matfield had put in a lot of hard work to get into playing shape again and he was confident the lock would make a successful return to the game.
“Our depth at lock in South Africa isn’t great,” Meyer said.
“Experienced players such as Andries Bekker and Juandre Kruger are now playing abroad, while Eben Etzebeth and Pieter-Steph du Toit have missed a fair amount of rugby in the last year because of injuries.”
He said Matfield had always been a world-class player with an understanding of what it took to succeed at the highest level.
Meyer said he was convinced the player would not have made the decision had he known he would not be able to compete for a position in the national side.
“We’ve seen in the past that players can make a successful return to rugby after a lengthy period on the sidelines,” he said.
“Jake White successfully brought back Os du Randt and Bob Skinstad, who both played a vital role when the Springboks won the Rugby World Cup in 2007. More recently, Schalk Burger and Juan Smith both made a successful return from career-threatening injuries.” – Sapa