Too much rugby for Matfield?

2011-04-06 09:59

Rob Houwing

I read a story on a British newspaper’s website this week, suggesting that these are “heady days” for veteran rugby players (certainly as far as the northern hemisphere is concerned) ... something rather flying in the face of fears that the modern game should, instead, be shortening careers.

Interestingly, tight forwards seem to be flourishing better than most in twilight phases of their rugby lives, some prominent 37-year-old internationals cited as examples including lock Simon Shaw (Wasps) and props Julian White (Leicester) and John Hayes (Munster).

And there is even the case of Danny Grewcock, the England second-row stalwart of the Martin Johnson era still going pretty strong for Bath at a particularly ripe 38.

Defying scientific expectations that career spans should be shrinking in this age of especially punishing contact and just as brutal scheduling, the article suggested a counter-balance was “phenomenal advances in medical care, fitness and recovery programmes ... and commitment to enforced rest periods”.

If you judged him in terms of the apparent UK trend for “oldies” thriving, Springbok and Bulls lineout ace Victor Matfield is a relative spring chicken: the bearded lock turns 34 next month.

Realistically, of course, he has nevertheless reached an age where cautious “management” appears to be a sensible course of action.

And my fear, with the 2011 World Cup now less than six months away, is that the “enforced rest” mentioned above does not appear to be applying – certainly not yet, anyway -- to this key Bok tall timber and still-unmatched lineout “professor”.

Let’s not forget how extraordinarily taxing a year Matfield had in 2010: first he led the Bulls to retention of the Super 14 title, and then his international season contained more in the way of personal responsibility (including generous periods of captaincy) than any Bok colleague.

He played 13 of the 14 Tests by South Africa, only sitting out the second of two against limited Italy in East London.

Matfield was captain – with all the extra cares that carries – in every Test of the Grand Slam tour at the end of the year ... and had also insisted on making himself available for that questionable once-off Test against Wales in Cardiff in mid-year, just a week after the Super 14 final in Soweto.

So the veteran could barely be said to have had an off-season, especially as he was back at his seemingly perennial post at the helm of the Bulls when the greatly stretched Super Rugby season kicked off several weeks ago.

And as has so often been the case during his many years in this competition, Matfield invariably is the Bulls lock who plays the full 80 minutes: their second-row strategy tends to revolve around Bakkies Botha coming off after an hour of grunt, and being replaced by someone like Flip van der Merwe, whilst the skipper and more “athletic” foil to Botha sticks it out to the bitter end.

There is almost certainly greater lock depth at Loftus than at any other Super Rugby franchise, when you add Van der Merwe, Juandre Kruger and versatile Danie Rossouw to the old firm.

And yet “rotation” – that often all-too-elusive phenomenon – doesn’t seem to be too high on coach Frans Ludeke’s agenda.

Nor, you would think, will it come onto the radar too quickly, with the champions a slightly precarious sixth on the overall table after two defeats and more in wildcard terrain at present than as likely SA conference table-toppers.

So there will be few easy dates ahead for the Bulls, and Matfield’s prowess at lineout time will be as sought-after a commodity as ever – including this Saturday, for example, when the possibility of his ruling the skies at Timaru (including giving the opposition hooker and jumpers the yips) will be crucial to the Bulls’ dart at upsetting the formidable Crusaders.

One thing that perhaps needs to be said in defence of Ludeke’s “Play Victor every time, and for every minute” formula is that the player himself appears to be a start-aholic, deeply reluctant to sit out action for either franchise or country.

Presumably Matfield knows better than anyone, too, considering that his first-class career is well into its second decade, of his own body’s state of well-being and durability from one season to another.

But with national coach Peter de Villiers already making noises suggesting the Tri-Nations will not be significantly used as a vehicle for rotation purposes, nor that “soft” matches against the likes of Namibia at the World Cup itself will feature heaps of second-stringers, I am just a little concerned about the prospect of the Boks finding one of the major, ageing weapons in their defence of the RWC crown suddenly getting jaded at a most inconvenient time.

Reports of a few gnarly old customers holding their own in UK club rugby don’t automatically do much to allay that fear, either!

Just a bit of cocooning for Matfield over the next few months, wherever it may be considered possible, could benefit both player and country, whether the big fellow desires it or not.

And if omitting him from a run-on XV is so seemingly sacrilegious, the occasional game where he only plays 55-60 minutes  himself, for a change, wouldn’t do any harm, would it?

Rob Houwing is Sport24’s chief writer

Disclaimer: Sport24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on Sport24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Sport24.


  • Jaco - 2011-04-06 10:02

    C'mon Vic, only one last season. We beg you.

      CliffBradley - 2011-04-06 10:07

      As long as he is not broken by the world cup , more important than Bulls , Stormers actually all !!!

      JohnnyBB - 2011-04-06 11:46 no 5, ....and best captain in the world.....

  • DUANEROCKS - 2011-04-06 10:06

    I'm not sure how much relevance this article has to Matfield? He has been doing very little physical work when on the field in any event? - 2011-04-06 10:26

      Matfield is a Bok legend, but I'm afraid it's time to pass on the torch to Bekker. Bekker has to start at 5 in New Zealand if we want to compete.

      GILLBERT - 2011-04-06 10:57

      were not going to make the finall any way im not sure why it would matter

      Marx - 2011-04-06 11:14

      DuanneLoser, ek sê weer, gaan gee die hond kos, en gaan tel daai "Stormer Trophies" wat hy vir jou op die gras gelos het op !! You know, you're team is just like your dog, actually a Poodle, but you believe he's a Rotweiller....Vic is the Boss, for at least another year!!

      thumper - 2011-04-06 11:48

      hey Marx go write another sad bulls country song for someone who cares

      JohnnyBB - 2011-04-06 11:48

      ......Andries Bekker plays his best rugby on the "park bench"....

      DUANEROCKS - 2011-04-06 11:56

      @JohnnyBB - maybe he does...but hell, then the PARK BENCH that is Loftus really contributed to Andries manshaming Vic and Baksteen in the lineout a few weeks back. Viva the Loftus park bench, VIVA.

      The Observer - 2011-04-06 13:04

      thumper. here is a tune for you. Goes on Jack Parrow's melodi. "Want jy dink jy cooler as ekke, want jy het meer girls as Andries Bekker." heheheheh. fornicator

      CliffBradley - 2011-04-06 15:57

      The Observer : As long as he is not a drug addict like so many Bulls & ex Bulls

      Kaapie - 2011-04-06 16:08

      @ JohnnyBB you orget the romp with the prostitute(she said he had a mole on his winkie) and the recreational drugs of the boys and ... we can go on. For now Bekker is the clearly the No1 Lock in the country by a country mile.

      CliffBradley - 2011-04-07 05:55

      Kaapie : WINKIETJIE is the right word , BB Supporters are not " SPINELESS PRICKS" they are "PRICKLESS SPINES"

  • mozzer - 2011-04-06 10:09

    Too much missed tackling for Matfied. If he carries on like this he will depose the man who has missed the most tackles in the Super Rugby competition 3 years in a row................................ drumroll.......................... John Smit

      Bobesi - 2011-04-06 10:59

      In 2008 he was playing at Cleremont so it would have been hard for him to top the missed tackles count in super rugby while playing in France...

      mozzer - 2011-04-06 11:17

      Saw the stats the other day and was sure it was 3 but stand corrected. Anyway he has been a great player and role model for SA rugby but as they say, "the king is dead, long live the king!"

      Theuns - 2011-04-06 13:31

      Is tackling your own player counting as a takle or wot..!

      JohnnyBB - 2011-04-06 13:49

      .....John Smit = non-merit player.....

      CliffBradley - 2011-04-06 16:00

      Bobesi : Trouble is Mozzer was counting likr the Bull supporters - 11 & 12 year no Currie Cups - This is the crap that dribbles down from the Jukskei !!!!

  • hhvv - 2011-04-06 10:12

    Although Vic was a lot on to field this season, he has not played yet.

      Bulldozer - 2011-04-06 10:18

      hiv, dit help nie jy luister op die radio elke week nie. Dit vertel nie die verhaal nie.

      Theuns - 2011-04-06 13:32

      Ja man, hy wag vi di RWC om te start....!

      Kaapie - 2011-04-06 16:09

      And wot about Spies.. looks like he is doing warm up drills

  • scipio - 2011-04-06 10:32

    Matfield doesn't do that much on the field. He can tackle, He can be physical, but he's old hey. He tends to chill around the park and lend a helping hand every now and then. He is the line-out master. The obscurity of a line-out master cleaning a ruck is substantial. Vic can't lower himself to such a degree. It's heresy. The IRB should consider changing some of it's laws some what. Like for instance, Make it applicable that some one like Matfield can come off the bench everytime a line-out is called. He can get on the park, do his little charade and then get off again. I think matfield only plays rugga because of the line-outs. Like I said. Matfield is a strong bloke. He tends to preserve himself a lot though.

      DUANEROCKS - 2011-04-06 10:54

      NFL rules :) Remember Naas running on for the Dallas Cowboys to take the 'kicks'. What a wonderful idea.....the same rule should be applied for props. Run on, run off.....wax on was off. You are correct, Vic is purely a ruck inspector at the moment.....who knows, maybe he is saving himself for the WC.

  • Oukoos - 2011-04-06 10:45

    Victor raak 'n bietjie lank in die tand, maar hy is steeds broodnodig vir die Springbokke. Ek kan nie sien hoe ons sonder hom suksesvol vir die wereldbeker kan meeding nie. Vir my (as leek) kom dit voor of hy moeg op die veld opdraf en dringend 'n ruskans nodig het. As die Stormers suksesvol jong Elstadt in die beginspan insluit, is daar geen rede hoekom die Bulls nie dieselfde met Flip van der Merwe kan doen nie - hy is immers meer ervare as Elstadt.

      JohnnyBB - 2011-04-06 11:50

      ....Matfield 'n moet as Kaptein van die Bokke....

  • Gorilla - 2011-04-06 11:03

    Matfield should be carefully managed if he is to function this RWC. He is also not a good Bok captain. Play him off the bench.

  • Hannes Perth - 2011-04-06 11:14

    Bekker is playing better than Victor at this stage. If you need to put anyone in cotton wool it must be Bekker.

      JohnnyBB - 2011-04-06 11:50

      ......put Bekker on the park bench.....

      DUANEROCKS - 2011-04-06 11:58

      @Johnny - Who won the battle at Loftus a few weeks back? Was it a) Vic b) bakkies c) Andries......look at the scoreboard....look at the log.

      Terence.Craig.Berry - 2011-04-06 12:39

      Bekker gets involved in the off the ball stuff way too much. Imagine a Final or a Semi and Bekker has to go cool off for 10 minutes??

      DUANEROCKS - 2011-04-06 12:46

      @Terence - you mean like Bakkies?

      Terence.Craig.Berry - 2011-04-06 13:11

      Indeed! Just like Bakkies!!

      Gilgamesh - 2011-04-07 11:05

      As much as I don't want to get involved in petty arguments. One cannot deny that Bekker is probably the best lock in the world right now. He's incredible. Like Bismark in the loose but bigger.

  • Marx - 2011-04-06 11:27

    Vic is a World Rugby Legend and will be seen in Future as one of the most succesfull players/captains in SA and World Rugby History. If it wasn't for that slip up last year in Europe, he would have won the Grand Slam Tour too. He should captain the World Cup squad!!

      mozzer - 2011-04-06 11:39

      Good point Marx. He is a legend!! Now, a team for 2011.... 1 - Os Du Randt 2 - John Smit 3 - Balie Swart 4 - Kobus Wiese 5 - Victor Matfield 6 - Fransoir Pienaar 7 - Burger Geldenhuis 8 - Janie Breed 9 - Joost 10 - Joel Stranski 11 - Carel Du Plessis 12 - Japie Mulder 13 - Andre Snyman 14 - Ray Mordt 15 - Andre Joubert

      DUANEROCKS - 2011-04-06 11:41

      @Marx - he shouldn't captain the Boks.......fact.

      mozzer - 2011-04-06 11:44

      looking at the list, I'd like to replace Japie with Danie Gerber (sorry Japie) Now a team of would this team get on?

      JohnnyBB - 2011-04-06 11:51

      ...Naas Botha for no 10 ...!!

      mozzer - 2011-04-06 11:54

      Good point Jonny

      JohnnyBB - 2011-04-06 11:55

      ...Victor Matfield for Bok captain.... .......John Smit overrated like the Stormers....

      martin.vandermerwe1 - 2011-04-06 12:27

      Stormmers can be overrated but atleast they win games! The Bulls will not even make the Semi finals if they play like they do now Bulle is full of hasbeens. I hope the Crusaders destroy the Bulls saterday morning!

      Bulldozer - 2011-04-06 12:47

      Martin, I hope you get destroyed by a bus.

      Theuns - 2011-04-06 13:57

      Piet Visagie vir no.10 en Joggie Jansen vi no. 9, m waars ou Mof en Frik en Mannetjies, Jan Ellis hulle is al goed uitgerus..!

      Raka13 - 2011-04-06 13:58

      mozzer, very weird combination of players? But to each its own

      DUANEROCKS - 2011-04-06 14:00

      @Bulldozer - whats up with all the wishes of violence mate? Pent up aggression? Sad break-up? Unemployment? We're here for you!!! Embrace your pain.

      mozzer - 2011-04-06 14:11

      @Raka13 I was making the point that just because someone is a legend of SA rugby (all the names on that list) doesn't make them an automatic selection for the current bok team. and by the way that would be one hell of a team!!

      Kaapie - 2011-04-06 16:12

      En wat van Hempies, Povey en Van Aswegen

      Kaapie - 2011-04-06 16:12

      En Morne Du Plessis

      Durasmart - 2011-04-07 08:26

      @mozzer. Garth Wright at 9, Naas Botha at 10, Michael du Plessis at 12 and Danie Gerber at 13 with your 2 chosen wings and fullback is a dream team backline. In the forwards I will replace Kobus Wiese with Mark Andrews.

  • Jakes de Kock - 2011-04-06 13:01

    @martin.vandermerwe1 You cannot even spell your own team's name! Your Stormers win one game against the Bulls, while the Bulls have beaten the Weer Probeer outjies 4 times out of 5 since 2007 in the Super competition and the game they lost last year was with a second string in Slaapstad. Julle Stormer supporters is lekker windgat maar jul trophy kassie is leeg. Let's talk again when you have won something.

      Spires - 2011-04-06 13:22

      Gaaf van jou om hierdie jaar uit te los, want dit gan 2/2 wees die jaar, dit maak dit 3/4 keer di laaster twee jaar vir die Stormers. Hou asb jou stats op hoogte, of hou jou bek!

      Jakes de Kock - 2011-04-06 13:30

      Hoe nou Spires? So nou moet ek wedstryde tel wat nog nie gespeel is nie? Hou eerder jou bek and don't count your chickens before they are hatched! Current stat insluitend die jaar: Bulle 4 Weepee 2 (met een game teen die B span)

      Spires - 2011-04-06 13:51

      Jakes jy praat al weer kak ou maat, W.P het speel nie teen die bulle in die super comp nie, bewys maar net weer dat jou bron vir jou stats nie baie betroubaar is nie, anyway jy is reg, ek moet nie my hoenders tel nie. Baie kan nog gebeur

      DUANEROCKS - 2011-04-06 13:58

      @Jakes - Is that you Wynie "I wanna be a ginger ninja" Strydom?

      Raka13 - 2011-04-06 14:01

      Shame Jakes, julle en die beroemde B span

      CliffBradley - 2011-04-06 16:34

      Jakes de Kock : Now here is a bit of info for you : You Flou Bul supporters love to say we ( WP) must not count before 1939 ( Thats when the Bulls were first thought to be worthy of playing for the Currie Cup.) The bulls may have won it 2 more times than the WP , but and I repeat But, the times we have played against each other , since 1939 ( Holy Year) , we have beaten Bulls 8 times , Bulls have beaten us 5 Times and drawn 1 time - Hows that for stats.

      CliffBradley - 2011-04-06 16:36

      Jakes de Kock : Fact is just as you Bull Supporters like to throw in our faces about playing week opponents , the same goes for Bulls ( Showed by stats)

  • fahiem sampson - 2011-04-06 15:17

    "- to this key Bok tall timber and still-unmatched lineout “professor” . "What a load of bull Rob, did you not watch the match against the stormers? Matfield was scared of Bekker, why should we wrap him up in cotton wool is Andries is a better number 5 lock than matfield

  • CliffBradley - 2011-04-06 15:44

    My beloved Bulls team and Victor, my favourite player of all time!! Please guys, stand strong, we need you.

      CliffBradley - 2011-04-06 16:05

      It must be terrible to want to be me so bad -Hey Alwyn die Verskriklike- SHAME I feel for you !!!!!

      CliffBradley - 2011-04-06 16:12

      DUANEROCKS : Sorry , I tried to appologise for leaving such a stupid remark about my beloved bulls (should be, more like my BELOVED BULLSHIT) ! !!!!!!

  • CliffBradley - 2011-04-07 00:18

    Sorry, I was mistaken. I checked the stats again. If we go back starting 1939 Bulls vs WP the Bulls has won 23 CC and WP only 12. Bulls are our best team in history and also the best provincial team in world rugby. They are the defending Super rugby champions 3 out 4 years vs ZERO trophies ever by the Stormers.

      Rugby Rocks - 2011-04-07 08:02

      I see we have a , most scarce of creatures - a clever bull supporter

  • Punani - 2011-04-07 09:45

    Matfield can play until his mid-forties. He's never injured because he never takes contact. He's good in the air, but a soft insignificant little puppy around the rest of the park. Compare Matfield to the likes of Schalk Burger, Juan Smith and Duane Vermeulen who give and take huge hits week after week. Matfield is seldom in the engine room with the tight five. He is in the centre berth snuggled up next to Wynand Olivier. Bekker has buffed up and is a much better player than Matfield. Let's just hope the selectors do not go to the World Cup with Matfield and Botha. They have been bullied all season and have at best looked very ordinary.

  • Andre - 2011-04-07 12:09

    Jis julle ouens kan darem 'n klomp stront praat!

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