Matfield: Twickers’ senior man

2014-11-11 22:04
Victor Matfield (Gallo Images)

Cape Town – It may be very much an away game for South Africa, but when they tackle England on Saturday, Victor Matfield will almost certainly be the starting player across both line-ups boasting the longest Test association with Twickenham.

The teams were yet to be revealed at the time of writing, but the Springboks’ 37-year-old lineout maestro will be stretching his active presence at the hallowed venue to 13 years, having made his first international appearance there as far back as November 2001.

Matfield has certainly stood the test of time when you peruse the line-ups from that day, for a clash comfortably won 29-9 by the hosts in a period when the Boks weren’t exactly taking the world by storm.

England were led by Martin Johnson – like second-row rival Matfield, later to become a World Cup winner – and their cause was greatly aided by flyhalf wonderboy Jonny Wilkinson banging over seven penalties.

Wilkinson was the most recent of that victorious England XV to retire from first-class rugby – earlier this year while with Toulon – although he had ended his Test career as far back as 2011.

Matfield, meanwhile, will also be the only still-active member of that 2001 Bok side at “Twickers”: he was partnered at lock by 1995 World Cup winner Mark Andrews.

For interest’s sake, these were the other Springbok surnames from the starting combo: Jantjes, Paulse, Halstead, Van Straaten, Hall, Koen, Van der Westhuizen, Skinstad (capt), Venter (AJ), Vos, Meyer, Smit, Le Roux.

The scrumhalf then, Joost van der Westhuizen, is seriously ill with motor neurone disease at age 43 but has been in London this week raising awareness of the condition and visited the England squad in training for Saturday’s fixture; he also attended Sunday’s game between Saracens and Currie Cup champions Western Province.

Matfield was 24 at the time and earning his seventh Test cap for the Boks; his tally now stands at a record 118.

He has played four Twickenham Tests against England, losing the first two (including a later 32-16 defeat in 2004) but then sampling victory twice: the famous 42-6 thumping of the hosts in 2008 and 21-11 in 2010.

His overall record against them is nine matches, with six victories and three defeats.

The great tight forward confirmed in a British newspaper interview this week that the World Cup next year was definitely intended as his last playing involvement of any kind, and that he had signed new two-year coaching terms with the Bulls thereafter.

He was their forwards and attack coach in Super Rugby 2013 during his two-year time out from the game as a player.

*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing

Read more on:    springboks  |  victor matfield  |  cape town  |  rugby

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