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Bulls mum on Matfield return
Victor Matfield (Gallo Images)
Pretoria - The Bulls are looking back in time to secure their Super Rugby future as two of their legendary stalwarts are set to return to the field for a comeback in the 2014 season.
According to the supersport.com website, both Springbok Victor Matfield and Loftus’ 'liefling' Derick Hougaard are training hard in Pretoria as they attempt to return to the field after a lengthy absence from the game.
Both comebacks have been privately confirmed by those close to the Bulls team, but no official comment has been received about Matfield and Hougaard returning to the field.
The Bulls officials have kept mum on the prospects of any comeback while both players are also keeping quiet about their movements.
But with the Bulls facing a tough Super Rugby tournament with an extremely young side and very little experience left in the camp after the mass exodus of Springbok players earlier this year, Matfield and Hougaard would be welcomed back into the fold, even though both currently hold coaching positions at the Bulls.
Matfield went as far as to hint at returning in a recent column for sponsor BMW, where he said if Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer asked him to return it would be a very difficult decision indeed.
"With Fourie returning, and Jaque Fourie also getting a lot of media coverage for a possible return, I've been asked the same question, particularly with a World Cup just two years away: if the Bok coach asks me to play again, and he thinks I am still good enough, will I accept?
"If he does – and that's a big 'if' – then it would be a very tough decision," Matfield wrote recently in his column.
It was widely believed that Matfield was tipped to take over the Currie Cup coaching reigns at the Bulls from incumbent Pine Pienaar, but his decision to return to the field will ultimately affect that, and could well see someone like Pote Human – who recently returned to Tuks to coach them in the Varsity Cup, return to a role he occupied a few years ago.
As for Hougaard – the popular flyhalf returned from Saracens under an injury cloud and has been seen more in social media pages than on the rugby field as he turned to a new role of kicking coach for the juniors at Loftus Versfeld.
But since then his Achilles has healed and Hougaard is positive that the medical news is enough to allow him a chance of trying to make it back onto the field, something he has desperately wanted for a while now and has often spoken about.
If both players return, it will be seen as a short term solution for the Bulls as they try and see their way through the next Super Rugby season while their young crop of players continue to develop.
But if things go well, don’t be surprised if both players then opt to try and make the Rugby World Cup squad in 2015, although at the moment that is far in the future.
Matfield, who was first a SuperSport commentator when he retired after the 2011 Rugby World Cup, and then took up a position as forwards and attack coach for the Blue Bulls, is attempting to become the second oldest Springbok player if he makes it back so far at the ripe age of 36.
Johan Ackermann holds that record when he appeared in 2007 at the age of 37 when the Boks faced the Barbarians.
Matfield has been seen training with Springbok fitness coach Basil Carzils in Pretoria in an attempt to get back to a fitness level that will be good enough for Super Rugby.
Since his time off the game the Bok lock has been very active in cycling but has not had the same physical activity as in his rugby days.
He was rumoured to return last year when coach Meyer was actively looking for experience, but decided rather to stick to his coaching role. Since then, a dearth of candidates in the No 5 jersey has given him much food for thought – and there is a belief at Loftus that Matfield still has a season in him at least.
Hougaard has also been very active at Loftus, and could be seen as a mentor for a young player like Handre Pollard, who has been tipped to make it to the top despite being only a year out of school.
And with the likes of Arno Botha, Pierre Spies, Deon Stegmann, Francois Hougaard all returning and Piet van Zyl heading to Loftus to join the Bulls, the addition of the two stalwarts will certainly give them more depth.