Matfield rushing back to Bulls

2008-09-05 02:15

New Zealand - Tana Umaga has done the New Zealand Super 14 cause no favours by releasing Victor Matfield early from his Toulon stint so that he can help the Bulls defend their cherished title.

Matfield, who cemented his standing as the best lock in the game at the recent World Cup, was set to join the ambitious French club on a six-month deal in January that would have ruled him out of the Super 14 and possibly placed his Test career in jeopardy.

But now after a deal between Toulon, where Umaga is the coach, and the Bulls Matfield will play in France for just two months.

That means he will miss just the opening four rounds of the Super 14 when the Bulls play in South Africa.

The Bulls, who finally ended the republic's Super rugby title drought this year, are delighted to have held on to Matfield in what seems to be an amicable compromise.

Toulon, who currently lead the French second division table with six consecutive wins, are desperate to gain promotion and have nine crucial matches through January and February.

So they will have Matfield for that stint where he will join a star-studded side that includes George Gregan, Andrew Mehrtens, Anton Oliver and Lawrence Sephaka.

But importantly Matfield will be back for the business end of the Super 14 which is a real boost for the Bulls who will be one of the favourites.

With a question mark remaining over the test futures of foreign-based Springboks, Matfield's inclusion in the Super 14 will keep him in the Boks frame.

He recently stated a desire to stick with the Springboks at least through to the 2009 tour of South Africa by the British and Irish Lions.

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