Matfield’s high praise is premature


VicVictor Matfield made a bolt statement over the weekend when he proclaim his ambition to play for the Springboks again in next years World Cup, by saying this current team is the best Springbok group ever. 

JON CARDINELLI look into this statement that many believe is a bit unfair to previous Springbok teams.

Victor Matfield has been quoted widely over the past few days, declaring his intention to reclaim the Bok No 5 jersey and win the 2015 World Cup.

The decorated lock has never been afraid to express an opinion and his view has always carried considerable weight given his experience at the highest level and what he’s achieved in terms of opponents bested and tournaments won.

Matfield has gone so far as to publicly declare that the current Bok side is ‘the best ever and will take the trophy next year [at the World Cup in England]’.

His manner and record suggest he is a man to be taken seriously. However, this is an opinion that can’t be rooted in fact when you consider what the class of 2007 achieved, and what the class of 2014 has not.

The Boks made a statement during the group stages of the 2007 World Cup, smashing England 36-0 via a well-rounded performance. As the tournament progressed and the team continued to grow, it became evident that they possessed the best pack in the competition, as well as a versatile back division that was further complemented by a world-class goal-kicker in Percy Montgomery.

It was a team that boasted a perfect blend of veterans, established players in their prime, and several talented youngsters. It remains one of the most effective and successful outfits that South Africa has ever produced.

To compare the class of 2007 with the current Bok team is unfair and grossly premature. The former was a side at the peak of its evolution, the latter is a team still building towards this perfection.

The Boks finished the 2013 season with an 83% win record, having successfully implemented a more balanced game plan. The depth in the squad was improved via some savvy selections.

And yet the simple fact remains that they finished the season behind the All Blacks, and have not beaten the world’s top team over the past two years.

They have yet to win a Rugby Championship title, let alone a World Cup. So to reiterate, all comparisons to legendary sides of yore are premature.

To compare the class of 2007 with the current Bok team is unfair and grossly premature

It’s understandable why Matfield would make such a claim. The likes of Bismarck du Plessis, Jannie du Plessis, Bakkies Botha, Schalk Burger, Ruan Pienaar, Fourie du Preez, Frans Steyn, Jean de Villiers, Jaque Fourie, Bryan Habana and JP Pietersen were all part of the 2007 World Cup squad, and have added to their respective games since that monumental tournament in France. These players are still in the mix, and could well add value in the next two years.

But it should be remembered that the World Cup-winning teams of the past have enjoyed a good balance between youth and experience. The Bok team that plays in 2015 must boast a blend of both the young and old. This is what Heyneke Meyer will need to be wary of in the coming season.

That said, Matfield is right to feel enthused about the current team, and how they continue to grow under Meyer. Matfield is right to feel more than a little excited about what the future may bring for this particular group of Boks.

Du Preez, Fourie and Botha were all brought back into the Bok set-up in 2013 after spending an extended period out of the international game. Upon their return, they told anybody who would listen that the Bok structures were better than ever, and that the team culture was stronger than it had ever been before. Tellingly, each of these players volunteered this information without having to be asked.

Perhaps Matfield’s comment should be put down to excitement more than anything else. The year 2014 will be an exciting one for Meyer’s Boks, and while there will be pressure to produce some big results, they are results well within reach.

As for greatness, all such talk will have to wait until the 2015 World Cup has reached its climax.

Facebook Comments
Better known as Bunny, Took over after Pissant went over to the "Dark Side"


  1. The ’98 team then suffered a rapid decline and sank into into ignominy in short order. No legacy!

    In contrast the current team looks on the way up.

  2. @Boertjie:

    Wierd you name those two together… Teichman dropped by Mallet and the ‘legacy’ ended sharpish…


    Agreed… ‘for the moment’ (I have a feeling Super 2014 ain’t going to bode too well for RSA sides… however that is never an indication of test rugby)…

  3. @bryce_in_oz:

    Boertjie… whilst I take nothing away from the achievements of the Mallet era… the Ab’s were not quite near the evolved beast they have become in the 15 odd years since…

  4. @bryce_in_oz:

    You can only play what’s in front of you,
    and this team did it bloody well and with
    attractive, attacking rugby – better than all
    the others in that period. And I don’t think we’ll
    see their style again.
    Otherwise we can go back to the 1937 and 1955 Boks
    to name the greatest Bok team.

    Ja, Mallett dropping Teich in the way he did was
    a crying shame. I’ve read Teich’s book.

  5. @Boertjie:

    You won’t see any team play like that again Boertjie – not at test level and not under the current laws.

    It is a territory based game where teams look to play at the right side of the field, and mostly without the ball squeezing penalties and turn-overs.

    And yes, that is exactly what NZ does too. That is why they have 3 fullbacks playing in the back three brilliant under the high ball, territory game, and kicking game.

  6. @Morné:

    As David Kramer sang (in Blokkies Joubert):


  7. @Boertjie:

    Everybody always say the old days were better, but if one pays only a little bit of attention to history, you will find that it’s not so.

    That’s in general.

    When it comes to Rugby, it’s been effected and spoiled by politics almost from the moment WWE picked up the ball.
    just go read about:
    -the split with football (soccer)
    -the splits with League.
    -collaborating with the nazis in France.
    -a whites only game in SA.

    I think I’m just scratching the surface.

  8. “High Praise”


    A game of CC quality and the old man out-plays his peers in his facet of play… impressive…

    Next step Super rugby before any ‘high praise’… methinks Vic is going to silence a few more en-route…

  9. @Timeo:

    Somehow I still prefer the old days, when tests
    were still far between and meaningful and when
    the stands were packed for CC and you saw 10,000
    at Newlands for three club games on one afternoon.

    As for the best teams:
    You have to measure them in their era and how
    they dominated.

  10. @Boertjie:

    10,000 at Newlands watching 3 club games of dubious quality by players of limited abilities and moderate fitness.

    50,000 at Newlands and 10,000,000 in front of their televisions and an undetermined number via the Internet watching an international match between the world’s best players in peak physical condition.

    To me NOW seems to be a lot better than THEN.

  11. On topic Jon Cardinelli should STFU. One CC game where in 30 mins Matfield does reasonably well and some media says he came through well hardly is “high praise”

    What I see is typical Cape centric moron hysterical as some posters here to discredit Heyneke Meyer immediately doing their best to suppress anything positive about Meyer and Matfield as it does not suit their whingeing agenda.

  12. @Timeo:

    OK, wise guy – tell me how many watch club rugby today.
    They cheer if they get 2000 at Boland Park.
    Schools draw more. And the Vodacom and CC players
    are supposed to be reasonably fit.
    You’re missing the point.

  13. @Boertjie:

    People watched club and 2nd tier rugby in the past because that were all that were available to them.
    Because of technology, we may now watch the highest tier rugby any where, any time at much reduced cost, so we do that and don’t waste our time on the inferior levels any more.

    The 1% taking a larger slice of the pie and all that.

    I like the new world order as it is. Not a 1%-ter myself, but neither consumed by jealousy on the matter either.

  14. @Timeo:
    Communication revolution.

    When we started RW we were able to give running sms and what was then EDGE commented commentary direct to someone who would then publish on the blog…

    Nowadays everyone does it… direct to Twitter

  15. @Americano:

    I guess you’re right. You got me there. And all those “occupiers” on Wall St. last year. 1%ers consumed by jealousy of the 0.01%ers.

    Personally I think we should never have left the caves.

  16. Uhm Dawie, not to be rude, but read the article again. It is about Matfield calling the current Boks the best in the world, not about the fact that Matfield received praise or not. That is if Im not mistaken…

  17. @DavidS: Ja, want WP ondersteuners is almal presies dieselfde. Hulle is basies soos een mens met die presies dieselfde opinie oor rugby.

    Genade maar jy kan kak praat as jy die dag lus is.