Matfield the man to lead Boks

May 26, 2014
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Vic

Having dismissed fears around his aptitude with a string of excellent performances for the Bulls, Victor Matfield should be tasked with leading the Springboks in Jean de Villiers’ absence, writesRYAN VREDE for SA Rugby Mag website.

Matfield shone once more in the Bulls’ decimation of the Brumbies at Loftus on Friday evening, playing with the energy, intensity and intelligence of a Matfield of old. Increasingly he is looking like a previous version of himself, which suggests he has discovered a means of defying his 37-year-old body and bringing it under the control of a willing mind.

There had been widespread lamentation when he announced his return to the game late last year, with many fearing that he would tarnish his reputation by struggling to impose his will on matches in the manner for which he was once celebrated. Matfield has done more than simply meet base expectations. He has thrived. Indeed, such has been the strength of his performances that Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer has seen no reason to question his instinct that the veteran lock still had much to offer in a Super Rugby context, nor the suspicion that he could fill, competently, a troublesome void in the Springboks’ line-up.

Matfield now looks poised to be the premier No 5 lock for the Springboks. He should also be the captain.

De Villiers will miss the mid-year Test matches through injury, and while there are a collection of experienced candidates who could fill the role, none trumps Matfield. Meyer has always insisted that experience and leadership credentials are a secondary consideration to form when selecting his captain. Matfield meets this primary criteria, but boasting the secondary qualities as well strengthens the case for him to lead. His record as captain of the Bulls, whom he led to a number of titles, including two Super Rugby crowns, is superb, while he has captained the Springboks previously in the absence of John Smit, always acquitting himself well.

He commands the respect of his team-mates and opposition and has worked extensively with Meyer before, knowing exactly what the demanding coach requires, tactically and from a leadership perspective. It would be an easy fit.

Fourie du Preez has been put forward as an option, but the scrumhalf has never been comfortable with the added responsibility (he has lead the Bulls on numerous occasions in Matfield’s absence). An introvert, Du Preez hates the media glare and the public profile, preferring to aid the leadership through his often excellent tactical insight.

Schalk Burger is a proven leader and vastly experienced, but he isn’t a guaranteed starter. Indeed, the possibility exists that he could be omitted from Meyer’s match-day 23 altogether, although it is unlikely that the coach would not utilise the 68-cap Bok in some capacity during the Test window. The same argument stands for Adriaan Strauss, who, while a strong leader, won’t unseat Bismarck du Plessis in a starting XV.

Du Plessis is an interesting case as a captain. Personally I feel he is more potent when unburdened by the responsibility of a formal leadership position. He is a fine player, among the best in the world in his position, but he lacks the aura of rugby’s great leaders. I love seeing him immersed in battle, advancing his team’s cause without any apparent conscious consideration to that cause. In short, I want to see Du Plessis operate on the border of insanity, and often. It is when he is at his most formidable. Clearly Sharks’ director of rugby, Jake White, felt captaincy wouldn’t shackle the beast. But I suspect that had there been stronger candidates, he would have looked elsewhere. Having gained considerable insight into Meyer’s mind through a lengthy professional association, I can make an educated guess that he won’t ask Du Plessis to take the reins.

This leaves Matfield as the strongest, and, in my view, best choice.

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9 Comments

  1. avatar Mug Punters Organisation of South Africa says:
    May 26th, 2014 at 2:54 pm

    Bismarck is captain material but not sure about Schalla or Fourie getting close yet. Strauss looks tired.
    His dummy, just heaven. I am surprised but definitely happy to have an inform Vic around especially when stocks are a little thin.

  2. avatar Morné says:
    May 26th, 2014 at 5:30 pm

    Personally, I will have Victor as vice. Meyer rates Adriaan and always has. Sharks fans are going to be pissed off I reckon.

  3. avatar Cheetah Glory says:
    May 26th, 2014 at 6:05 pm

    @Morné:

    But hell Adriaan has a had shocker as a season. That does not mean Meyer wont get best from him.

  4. avatar Boertjie says:
    May 26th, 2014 at 6:26 pm

    Strauss is heading for what can turn out
    to be a 3 week suspension for his spear tackle,
    three days late go start with.

  5. avatar Jacques(Bunny) says:
    May 26th, 2014 at 6:52 pm

    I cannot see HM leaving Bismarck out to have Struass as captain

  6. avatar Cheetah Glory says:
    May 26th, 2014 at 7:09 pm

    @Boertjie:

    reminds me so much of what happened to Jean Smith at Cheetahs. They become the total answer to everything the Cheetahs do and as result become these utterly predictable individuals.

    How had is it to defend Strauss when you know he never steps and never passes a ball? Yet the Cheetahs – a team who prides themselves on their attacking flair, gives 80% of good ball to Strauss?

    It was exactly the same with Smith and the key reason I stopped liking Smiths play. Yes he is tough and strong and all that, but he just was no longer effective as a ball carrier yet was given all the ball.

    Strauss 100% ‘there’ now and a liability in this team.

    Naka seems to breed these characteristics.

  7. avatar Boertjie says:
    May 26th, 2014 at 8:47 pm

    @Cheetah Glory:

    Jip. Strauss has lost form on top of it. Strong drive,
    good hands, good supporter but then he does not link.
    A la Alberts, Duane, I must add. But then passing is
    high risk rugby for Heyneke.
    :fishing:

  8. avatar Cheetah Glory says:
    May 26th, 2014 at 9:11 pm

    @Boertjie:

    true. And fair enough. But then play for Boks and someone else – not the bloody cheetahs!

  9. avatar Mug Punters Organisation of South Africa says:
    May 27th, 2014 at 5:06 am

    Not seen many good passes from Duane but I have seen them from Alberts and some awesome pick ups from his toes…it depends what the coach wants. I reckon offloads are better than going to ground.

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