Matfield remains lineout king
Cape Town - He may not be as dynamic all over the park as in days gone by, but Bulls lock Victor Matfield remains the lineout king in Super Rugby.As it happened: Force v Bulls
The Springbok lock captained the Bulls in their final tour match against the Force in Perth last week after regular skipper Flip van der Merwe was suspended for punching.
While Matfield, 36, did not succeed in spurring his team-mates to a first victory on tour, one area in which they did dominate was at lineout time.
Matfield's mere presence has made the Bulls the best lineout team in the competition in 2014 and last Saturday was no different.
They won 14 out of 15 on their own ball and stole possession off the Force no less than six times.
The Bulls have been dominant in that department all year, and according to statistics released on the official SANZAR website,
Matfield leads the competition with most lineout catches.
takes is six more than the second-placed Ben Mowen (45) of the Brumbies, with Jake Schatz of the Reds third with 39 catches.
Sharks lock Stephan Lewies, who got his chance when Springbok Pieter-Steph du Toit was ruled out for the year with a knee injury, is fourth on the list with 35. The other South Africans in the top 10 are Van der Merwe (30) and Warren Whiteley (28) in seventh and eighth spots respectively.
The Bulls' prowess in that department made one wonder, as the Australian commentators also noted at the time, why the Bulls weren't content to kick into the corners more often in rain-soaked Perth last Saturday.
Instead, they opted for their regular chip-and-chase tactic, which allowed the Force to kick back up-field.
The hosts were clearly rattled at lineout time, and smarter tactical play by the Bulls when they were 6-0 up after 20-odd minutes, could have yielded a different result on the night.
But the Force fought their way back and in the end the Bulls missed too many tackles and knocked on far too often to deserve victory.
Matfield though, remains a big weapon due to his mastery of one particular area. Don't be surprised to see the him run out when the Boks play their first game this year...