Brenden Nel - SuperSport
Pretoria - The more things change, the more they stay the same it seems.
Or at least that is the case for former Springbok captain Victor Matfield who reported for his first day of work as the Bulls' lineout consultant on Monday, a job which will hopefully ease him into an eventual role of coaching.
Matfield spent most of his first morning in meetings - mainly with coach Frans Ludeke, director of coaching Heyneke Meyer and forwards coach Johan van Graan and in-between found time to take his first session as lineout consultant and run a watchful eye over the Bulls crop of locks - including Bok Flip van der Merwe and successors Wilhelm Steenkamp and Juandre Kruger.
The venture is the first post-rugby career move by Matfield, who will also meet his new bosses at SuperSport on Wednesday to find out his role as analyst and commentator through the rugby season.
“Its been good so far,” Matfield told SuperSport.com, “Today is all about finding my feet and fitting in. What makes it a bit easier is that I know the systems the guys work with and even though they’ve been training on their own for two months, its just a case of looking for small adjustments at this stage. I want to make a contribution to make a difference for the team.”
While the Bulls have lost a small army of experience since the Rugby World Cup, their young upstarts are in good hands. Few teams have two Super Rugby winning coaches (Heyneke Meyer and Frans Ludeke) and a triple Super Rugby winning captain on their coaching staff.
Matfield though, doesn't want to see himself as just a consultant.
“I think I’ll probably be more than just a consultant. I have a great relationship with Johan (van Graan) and coach Frans (Ludeke) and I have the freedom to point out a few things here and there as I see them. I’m also here the whole day on a Monday, so its lekker.”
Matfield believes the Bulls won’t lose too much by losing the most capped lock combination in world rugby, and believes it will be business as usual at the Bulls' lock factory.
“They’re all great players. A guy like Flip van der Merwe has a lot of experience and the locks here have a great work ethic. I don't see it as being too different than the past, we’ll meet once a week as well and discuss a few things and do some analysis. Some times you feel you would liked to have played another year, but ja, that’s the way things go,” he smiles.
He has spent the last two months either on holiday or promoting his book, giving him a longer break than he was used to in his rugby days, but it was one that was both necessary and that he enjoyed.
“The book tour was hard work, but it was lekker to be able to share my journey with people. It was also great to have a longer holiday than normal with my folks and family, and then it was great to get away to a place for 10 days where nobody knows you - just my wife and I.”
One thing he isn’t longing back to as a player is the tough pre-season fitness tests that Basil Carzils puts the Bulls through on the Loftus B field. Although he still trains, Matfield is happy to stay a spectator on the fields he spent so much time on.
“I hear I missed the bleep test, but I would have loved to stand and watch as the guys did it. I hear the guys will be doing another tough fitness test on Friday, so maybe I should pop in and stand around and watch them sweat, for once it won't be me sweating, so that should be good.”