Matfield on last hurrah in SA

2011-11-09 15:30

Cape Town - We invited former Bok captain Hannes Marais to hand out the jerseys before the All Black Test, and he had a special message for us: ‘You are in the same position we were in after our tour of the British Isles in 1969/70, when we lost two Tests and drew two. We had our backs against the wall and the All Blacks were on their way to South Africa.’

We told ourselves exactly what the Boks told themselves 41 years ago: Each player had to believe in himself, because if he didn’t, how could his teammates or the nation believe in him? And we had to play for each other.

Well, the 1970 Boks beat the All Blacks 3-1 in that Test series, and that was the last time South Africa had played New Zealand in Port Elizabeth. Until now.

The message was very relevant. I was no longer convinced that the guys truly believed in themselves, and I was relieved that Oom Hannes had raised this point. The senior guys in the squad felt that it was time for the team to pull together, as we’d be leaving for New Zealand in only a few weeks’ time. We allowed our players a lot of freedom, but the senior players now decided that we would set the example in order to show the rest of the guys that the team always came first and that it could only perform successfully if we worked as a tight unit.

The bus ride to the stadium on the Saturday was very special to me. I didn’t want to make a big thing about it being my final Test in South Africa, but I struggled to keep my emotions in check. It was the last time I would ride in the team bus; we were on our way to play the All Blacks and I was captaining South Africa. We were also under immense pressure, but during the seven-kilometre drive from the hotel to the stadium, I once again realised what the Springboks meant to South Africa.

Everyone we passed (except the couple of All Black supporters, of course) cheered us on – whether they lived in shacks or in mansions. Most people didn’t care whether Victor Matfield, John Smit or Bryan Habana was on that coach; they were rooting for the Springbok emblem displayed on the outside. Although the Bok players also had their worries, problems and challenges, they brought hope to the people out there, a fact no Springbok should ever forget.

In South Africa, the national rugby team’s mission was always bigger than just being another successful sports team. I felt very strongly about this, as I believed we could contribute something meaningful to our country. Peter, too, had worked towards this goal during his tenure as Bok coach. We wanted to give the team back to the people, and I think we succeeded in doing so.

As a result, the Boks received spectacular support in Port Elizabeth, even though we knew that the All Blacks would have a great many people shouting for them too, mainly because a large number of coloured people had supported the team during the apartheid years.

The Test started at a hectic pace, and early on the All Blacks cut through our defensive line twice, but our cover defence stood strong. After the initial flurry, Morné Steyn kept the scoreboard ticking over with three successive penalty kicks from close to the halfway line, before adding a drop kick. The All Blacks were under pressure. We didn’t give them an inch to move, and in the end we won 18-5, with Morné scoring all the points.

We learnt something very important that day: Morné simply had to be our first-choice flyhalf. Before the match it had still been a toss-up between Butch and Morné, but afterwards it was clear that we couldn’t start a Test without Morné’s kicking abilities.

What a wonderful way to end my Test career in South Africa! Even though I’d pulled a hamstring early on in the second half, I managed to carry on playing till the end of the match, and afterwards I did a lap of honour to thank the fans – not just the faithful packing the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, but everyone who had supported me over the past 10 years.

My first Test in the starting XV for the Boks had been way back in 2001, also against the All Blacks. To be able to look back as the Springbok with the most Test caps at that stage and the most Tests against New Zealand – and as captain on the day – once again made me so thankful for all the privileges and blessings I’d received.

Extracted from “Victor My Journey” by Victor Matfield with De Jongh Borchardt (Zebra Press) Available at all leading bookstores countrywide 14 November 2011


  • Lionel - 2011-11-09 15:41

    Give credit where credit is due,this man will go down as one of the all time best lineout jumpers!!!

      Dale - 2011-11-09 16:37

      One of?? He IS the best lineout jumper!! Should I say was :(

  • Johan - 2011-11-09 16:21

    As a lock he was only beaten by Frik Du Preez. Well done Victor!

      Johann - 2011-11-09 18:17

      It is a possibility that Frik would have out-jumped Victor from a standing start, he had real spring in his jump and has beaten most jumpers at the time. But as someone said here, you can't compare 2 played from these vastly different eras, Frik would have been a flanker in modern rugby.

      Franklyn - 2011-11-09 20:20 is unbelievably unfair to compare players from different eras,Frik du Preez was a legend,but at 1.88/96kgs he probably wouldnt make provincial teams at lock in the modern era...its the same as that "red herring" that Naas Botha was our best ever flyhalf.

  • Priester - 2011-11-09 16:32

    Victor is the epitome of Springbok rugby. He will be remembered for his sportsmanship. I thank him for the satisfaction he gave all rugby supporters. Blou Bul Groete!

  • goyougoodthing - 2011-11-09 19:19

    A LEGEND IN HIS OWN LUNCHTIME. So tired of the retirees telling their story, as if we care. At least Matfield was a decent player... Butch on the other hand... who cares about his biography, as if he could spell it to begin with.

  • Jock - 2011-11-09 20:16

    Ironically, although the Boks won on the day in PE, the team showed they didn't actually believe in their ability to win the world cup by playing rugby and scoring tries; by selecting Morne Steyn ahead of Butch they showed they only believed they could win a world cup through kicking penalties, which is a lottery depending on the ref for the day. We went to the 2011 WC trying to defend our title and we lost. The good news is we will go to the next WC knowing we have to WIN the title back.

      Johan - 2011-11-09 20:58

      And how did the ABs win the cup??

      Kosie - 2011-11-10 09:45

      @ johan by scoring a try

  • vdwjasper - 2011-11-10 09:10

    That's the problem with biographies. Does anyone seriously believe that Victor had truly dictated those thoughts to the writer? The lie starts with the diction. An honest account would read something like this: "My oom drived the bakkie. Steve was playing on the radio. We stopped when we saw a very big zebra. Then Fourie het dressed it from about 300 meter with the 270. Really, it was 300 meter. Maybe more. Ongelukkig, it was a blood shot, but we still made lekker biltong from the boude...That evening Joost het brought some girls over..."

  • steven.chiaberta - 2011-11-10 10:28

    Classic! You're right, vdwjasper, but that's why sportsmen have to get writers to write their autobiographies. You can't deny Matfield will go down as one of the greats of the game though, and not only of Bok rugby..

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