Bok duo aim to retire on a high

2011-08-31 12:52

Johannesburg - John Smit and Victor Matfield have done more than play international rugby together. They've grown up together.

They've watched each other get married and have children. On the pitch, they've shared in glorious highs and trying lows together. After the World Cup in New Zealand they plan to retire together - as world champions.

South Africa's most capped players and two of the great Springboks in the country's rich rugby history, Smit and Matfield have been ever-present for a decade, through Rugby World Cup triumph, Tri-Nations titles and a series win over the British and Irish Lions.

Their national duties have also spanned coaches coming and going, controversial military-style training camps and World Cup and Tri-Nations failures.

The pair of 100-Test veterans hope to lead South Africa to successive titles, a feat never achieved at rugby's showpiece, in their final act as Springboks.

But the questions remain: Is it one step too far for Smit and Matfield? Have they held on too long? And will South Africa's attempt to defend the title be distracted by their farewell?

Skipper Smit and vice-captain Matfield will provide much of the inspiration for South Africa's 2011 squad, even more so than the victorious campaign in France in 2007. But it promises to be a big test of leadership and individual ability for the aging pair after the Boks team had two tough seasons in the run-in to the World Cup.

Smit and Matfield forged their relationship as young squad members at the 2003 tournament in Australia, when South Africa's buildup under former coach Rudolf Straeuli was undermined by the controversial pre-tournament boot camp, 'Kamp Staaldraad.'

Since then, they've formed the best thrower-jumper lineout combination in the world, become the most capped Boks ever in their positions and created a hugely experienced partnership that has won a World Cup and two Tri-Nations. South Africa counts on them lead it to an unprecedented third world title.

"Victor and I, it's crazy. We've played a huge amount of tests together." Smit said. "We've seen each other get married, have kids. We've been through Staaldraads together, we've won World Cups and Tri-Nations, we've lost Tri-Nations. We've had our moments up and down and we've always had each other.

"For me, it's just a special relationship. A lot of people always take Victor for granted. He's a phenomenal player and a great leader. He's been a pillar of strength for me. I've relied on him heavily throughout my time as captain and he's stepped up and provided."

Matfield said: "Myself and John are big mates. We've been playing together for quite some time now. It's about knowing each other's body language, knowing what's coming and that always helps. It's fantastic what the two of us have."

In the past two years, however, their experience has been sorely tested.

There have been just two wins in 10 matches against southern hemisphere rivals New Zealand and Australia as the Springboks slipped to No. 3 in the rankings.

The 33-year-old Smit, especially, has come under fire for his place in the team and Matfield, 34, while still world-class, isn't as dominant as he once was in the middle of the lineout. But current coach Peter de Villiers retains faith in his two leaders to inspire the team again.

"I trust both of them completely," De Villiers said. "I know their abilities and how they can read the game. I think we are in a better position than we were a few years back."

And praise for Smit and Matfield is universal in rugby.

"They've been great players, haven't they?" New Zealand coach Graham Henry said during this year's Tri-Nations. "They've both played over 100 test matches for South Africa and John has probably been one of the greatest captains that's captained in the game of rugby. He's won a World Cup. He's a special man and a special captain.

"Victor has been and may be still the greatest lineout forward in the game. They're special players and we have a lot of respect for them."

With the experience of a combined 213 Tests, the pair have said reacting to adversity and recovering when things go wrong will be key at the World Cup.

"I think that's what makes a good team," Smit said. "A team that can prepare itself well for a curve ball, but also react well to a curve ball. And this team has seen a few curve balls in its time. We've overcome a lot of them and some we haven't - it's those lessons where you haven't that you have to hold on to."

Matfield also stressed the World Cup campaign would not just be about them.

"Not everyone's career is ending. The others will keep going, so the Springboks are still in good hands after the World Cup," Matfield said. "Of course, for the few of us that are going out there on a trip like this for one last time, we want to go out there and win. But I think everyone, even those who will continue afterward, they want to win the World Cup because it's so special."

* Can the Springboks win the World Cup? Click HERE for the latest tournament odds on BET.CO.ZA


  • Bulldozer - 2011-08-31 12:55

    Frik du Preez - Player of the (last) century. Victor Matfield - Player of this century. Both (ex) Bulls players. Coincidence? I think not.

      RonJeremy - 2011-08-31 13:21

      This rugby is a white man's sport. oh wait, I'm forgetting Samoa, Tonga, Fiji, Kenya, Ivory Coast, Zimbabwe, ... ok I take that back. THE WHOLE WORLD LOVES RUGBY !!!

      jk - 2011-08-31 13:40


      SAFFA-CAT - 2011-08-31 13:51

      @Lloyd - I hope that van Graan fatty from the BBRU pays you well. That said, the scary thing is: Frik was called a 'giant' in his today's game he would weigh less than most centres. Scary thought that. PS: If I had to select a SA player of the decade, Matfield, Bakkies, du Preez, Burger, Jaque F and Smit would receive honorary mentions - but Juan Smith would be my MVP.

      flowing river - 2011-08-31 13:54

      How can these okes retire on a high when they r goin to get knocked out the cup in the first round?

      jk - 2011-08-31 13:59

      saffa- kom by my wp girl- TIAAN STRAUSS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!1

      roboman1 - 2011-08-31 14:02

      grow above provincialism, it is now a time for the Nation, and by the way, Vicotr comes from the Free State, the breeding ground of champions

      jk - 2011-08-31 14:11


      GILLBERT - 2011-08-31 14:34

      alweer JK en die bulls.... bra raak jy nie moeg om die heeltyd van die bulls te praat nie ek sweer jy love hulle......

      Bulldozer - 2011-08-31 14:35

      SAFFA, I don't need to get paid for stating the facts.

      JohnnyBB - 2011-08-31 14:43

      jk, .....supports the 10-year-losing-team... .....aka DHL Sucker-team.... ...10 year zero cups and counting... ... .....he he he he ...!!!

      jk - 2011-08-31 14:43


      SAFFA-CAT - 2011-08-31 14:54

      @JohnnyBB - You are a funny little specimen. I feel as though you should be in a petri dish in a laboratory somewhere? You support the Bulls fanatically, yet you hate the Boks? MPD? Or just freakily stupid?

      jk - 2011-08-31 14:59

      saffa- hes a bloody bull- they all the same!!! cant you tell??

      Bootman - 2011-08-31 15:17

      JK is a bloody idiot. They're all the same. Can't you tell?

      GILLBERT - 2011-08-31 15:22

      JK asb nie, kry eers n nie gay bakkie

      jk - 2011-08-31 15:56

      gilbert& bootman- please remove youselfs from my blog!! if you can proof that you propper wp supporters you cn stay if you ask nice!!!

      GILLBERT - 2011-08-31 16:57

      jk ek stem nie vir n span wat nie bekers wen nie..... maar good luck met dit...... gay span.... gay kar...... gay stad.... dink hier wys n patroon

      Karoobloed - 2011-08-31 19:40

      Gilbert - I happen to be straight. Real men are not threatened by gay people. And real men do not have to make fun of gay people. I guess that just about defines your problem p@ephol.

  • Marx - 2011-08-31 12:58

    True Legends of the game, how fantastic it would be to bring back the Gold!! Go Boys!!! Hie kom die Bokke, Hie kom die Bokke!!!!

  • Tools1 - 2011-08-31 13:06

    Now be the first to win 3 trophies, be the first to win back to back trophies and become true legends and make all these Maori wanebe's want to be true patriotic South Africans.

      karlkat - 2011-08-31 13:24

      you can say that again, all those Maori wanebe's we have in SA

  • Anneleen - 2011-08-31 13:07

    Smit, Matfield, and the Bok-team...cross the vast ocean and extend the stay of the William Webb Ellis trophy in the sunny country of South Africa...go honour to support you!!!

  • Viv - 2011-08-31 13:19

    Victor is an outstanding ambassador of the sport. He is a true gent on and off the field. A real man for our kids to look up to. John, although not the greatest player now, is a great Captain. You go boys and bring home the gold! You both deserve that kind of send off.

      odysseus - 2011-08-31 13:33

      I have been in two different gyms twice this week, and both times saw Victor and Bakkies training together.... the look in their eyes bodes well for the world cup...the kings walketh...

  • Wallaby - 2011-08-31 13:29

    Dream on. You were clearly not paying attention over the weekend. The legendary John Eales said something way back in 2003 on how to predict the winner of the RWC (any RWC for that matter). He said, and I quote: "The team that wins the world cup is the team that finds itself in an ascendancy phase in the lead up to the tournament." Wise words indeed (given he's been there and done that - twice). But then he gave practical examples for 1987, '91, '95 and '99. Lo and behold, his method works every time when applied. It also worked fairly well in 2007. Note he did NOT mention the word 'dominate'. No, the word is 'ascendancy'. There is a difference. Now we all know you didn't participate in 87 and 91 but it's difficult to determine if you were actually a team 'ascendant' in any of those years since you struggled against a World XV in 1989 (scraped through at Newlands and won 22-16 at Ellis Park) and lost to both the AB's and Wallabies in one-off tests in '92 (24-27 and 3-26 respectively). Isolation hurt you obviously and it is difficult to believe that you were in the 'ascendancy' back then. If you apply his 'rule' to this year's Tournament there clearly is a team in the ascendancy already. No, it's not White, nor Green or Black...You all know which team I'm talking about. It's wise to invest in Gold these days.

      SAFFA-CAT - 2011-08-31 13:41

      I did pay attention.....and the Wobblies were deserved winners. But answer me this: do the Wobblies have enough depth in the forwards to tough it out for let's say 3 brutal knockout games on the trot? Will the Wobblies be able to play conservative rugby for 3 games on the trot - without one of the their 'razze dazzle playmakers' losing the plot and 'going solo'? Will the Wobblies be able make a plan in a close game, when penalties will decide the winner and Quade, Bieber and Beale are all having a wobbly day with the boot? Will the Wobblies be able to exert forward pressure after 2 maybe 3 injuries to tight forwards? Will the Wobblies be able to WIN in NZ, or will the Poms bully them right out of the tournament (should the script go according to plan IMHO)? I'm going for the latter.....Sorry old chap - you Wobblies are a truly talented team, with a coach I really rate.....but I just think this World Cup has come a few years to early for the very young, very inexperienced, very temperemental Wallaby team. The Tri nations and S15 ain't the WC mate - and the Wobblies won't be in Kansas anymore Toto.

      ockert.niekerk - 2011-08-31 13:47

      Dont you have sheep that need "shearing"? Of you go lad.

      Kleinboet - 2011-08-31 13:59

      'Rules' are made to be broken! History is made to be re-written! The RWC is made to be won … by us - once again!

      Wallaby - 2011-08-31 14:03

      The W's are battle hardended and match ready. This was Deans's aim at the beginning of the year. We rested no one (unlike some other teams - yeah). We will not succumb to injuries (did you notice what happened to key AB forwards on Saturday? Say no more). Furthermore, our temperament is starting to 'mold' nicely. We saw it last year in Pretoria, Bloemfontein, Hong Kong, Paris and this year as well. Also, don't assume O'Connor will come back into the team easily. He'll have to fight his way back in. Ashley-Cooper and Anthony did a sensational job over the weekend. Drew Mitchell is also coming back into the fold. We have plenty of depth in the forwards (Rocky is the new Enforcer - just ask your own Bakkies Botha - he threw him around the park in Durban; delightful!) But I say, you saffas really have your hands full with 'Bieber' don't you? Ran you dizzy last year in Bloemfontein and Pretoria where he scored awesome tries and were also responsible for some sensational tries scored by other W's in both tests. Those painful memories must have left you by now (which is why I'm reminding you). We have something 'special' planned for the Poms. Just you wait. And see. No, Ockert. We don't shear sheep in winter you moron.

      Martin - 2011-08-31 14:13

      Dream on mate this cup is staying in SA...

      boetman123 - 2011-08-31 14:56

      Wallaby, I am confused why you would bother reading a South African news website, let alone comment on one. I suppose the rest of your countreymen couldn't really give a toss what you have to say about rugby.

      SAFFA-CAT - 2011-08-31 15:13

      @Wallaby - please visit this forum in the knockout stages of the WC tournie. I would love to hear your thoughts round about semi-final time.... I am not saying the Wobblies AREN'T in with a shout, hell everyone is in with a shout - it's a WC. But as Felipo Contepomi was saying about the Argies chances against England: He said something to this effect: They are better than us before the game starts, and they will be better than us after the game is over - I am not interested in the before and after - only in the 80 minutes in between" - ANY one of 8/9 teams in the tournie could knock another team over on the day.........(I hope the Wobblies know that? - wait they should.....Samoaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa) So I suggest you chaps hold back on any celebrations just yet, like most nations should :)

      @ - 2011-08-31 15:24

      What a load of old bollocks... Do you mean to tell the 95 All Blacks weren't in the ascendancy? They used to call Eales 'Nobody' because "Nobody's Perfect!' Well, John Eales and his sycophant Wallaby have just prove that Eales was in fact not perfect... Does he believe the Boks were in the ascendancy in 95? Absolute rubbish... before the comp started nobody gave us a chance. Just ask the Wallabies who got beaten in the opener in Cape Town...? No the Boks were not ascendant or anywhere near the best team at the tournament... they won against the odds and all expectations... If John Eales says otherwise his not only doff but he's not being honest either...

      FJ2 - 2011-08-31 15:50

      @Wallaby. Granted: It might be wise to invest in Gold. It might be just as wise not to write off green-and-gold in a smug, disrespectful, arrogant way. We are at our best with our backs against the wall, and we will fight up to the last whistle - you just remember that. As for '87 and '91: Yes, in '91 we might have struggled, but had we had the benefit of international rugby up to then, who knows? In '87 we had a lot of players, who beat the nucleus of th '87 All Black team the year before, at the top of their game: Naas Botha, who totally outclassed Grant Fox in '86, Danie Gerber (just go and read what Frank Bunce and Gareth Edwards had to say about him), Carel du Plessis, Michael du Plessis, Johan Heunis and Andre Joubert, Gert Smal, Schalk Burger, Jaco Reinach and, of course, Wahl Bartmann, who singlehandedly destroyed the All Blacks at the breakdown. All we're doing is speculating about the past, but that Springbok team would definitely have been contenders.

      Christy - 2011-08-31 17:23

      Well, it does make sense considering the Kangaroos from down under won both the super 15 and tri-nations. But hey, life is full of suprises. Go Bokke go and offcourse my beloved Welwitchias......

      MaestroX - 2011-08-31 17:41

      Wallaby I am sure what Ockert really wanted to say was "shagging" not "shearing"......mate!!!

      OutbackJack - 2011-09-01 05:06

      Yeah that's right Wallaby. We beat them three times in a row - twice in their own backyard. The Boks' crash-boom-bang style have been found wanting. Your forwards aren't so dominating anymore and your backs are simply useless. John Smit won't even make the Randwick club side here, yet he is your national captain? Quarter finals at best for you guys. Aussie Aussie Aussie!!!!

      kosie - 2011-09-01 10:25

      @ wallaby,winter is over mate you can go shear your sheep now.

  • BLOODY AGENT - 2011-08-31 13:36

    Would have liked to see John retire before the RWC ,but did not happen,so give it your best ,bring the trophy back

      jk - 2011-08-31 13:41


      Kapa O Pango - 2011-08-31 13:53

      Will retire at oldage home with "koffie beker"

  • Dan - 2011-08-31 13:37

    33 & 34 are not too old. Some South Africans are so sick in their heads and totally obseesed by age. Simon Shaw (England Lock) is 38 and still good enough. Matfield showed at the end of the Super 15 season that he is still head and shoulders above anything else we have. Smit was a very special player and hopefully he will hit some form during the RWC. These two achieved more in rugby than any other SA player ever did and probably will ever do. Why don't we support our own. Matfield is still regarded by NZ and AUS coaches as the best No.5 lock in world rugby and both has tremendous respect for Smit. Where do these coach potato reporters come from and what gives them the right to even judge players of this class, especially your own SA players. South Africans will remain bottom of the list when it comes to sportsmanship. We are heading into a RWC and all we do is breaking down our own players - that is really pathetic. Simon Shaw never really achieved anything in world rugby and here we are giving piss comments of the best lock rugby might have seen to date and he is still 4 years younger then Shaw. That means theoretically he even has another wolrd cup in him - when compared to Shaw. SA must have the most pathetic supporters in world rugby.

      SAFFA-CAT - 2011-08-31 14:03

      Exactly Dan. Never mind Thorne.....the AB's enforcer, who is a young 36. Nah man, these folk going on about age have no clue.... The AB's, Poms, Irish etc all have players in the twilight of their careers, and no-one is questioning THEIR age? Older and wiser counts for something in if only the sheeple who jumped on the "they are too old" bandwagon would realise that?

      jk - 2011-08-31 14:13


      SAFFA-CAT - 2011-08-31 14:29

      @Jk - I was not mentioning the faves.....I was mentioning teams that have older players...valuable players. I have said before....and will say it again: I am going with the tried and tested, the teams who know how to win UGLY.....England and SA. I do not rate the Aussies chances as highly as some people do, and the AB's will be there and thereabouts.... The French - eish, if they manage to string together 3 GOOD performances in a row, I will support the Bulls. The Frenchies venture between sublime and cr@p - and Lievremont has done nothing to change that (I really thought he would when he took over after the last WC) - SA, England, with the AB's in the mix.

      jk - 2011-08-31 14:33

      saffa- so if those oaks are so valuable, why dont they win the whole competition... their experience would mean nothing if there is no results... lievermont must just stick to a group 22 and stop changing it, they got everything... phillipe saint andre taking over on dec1

      jk - 2011-08-31 14:36

      saffa- dont let the french bite you in the arse... cause you dont want to support the bulls, and if there is one team that can do it to you... well its france...dont come crying on my shoulder saffa...

      SAFFA-CAT - 2011-08-31 14:43

      @Jk - I have no doubt the French will kick someone's butt hard in the tournie. The problem is: in the next game they will do something silly, or Lievremont will make 9 changes......or he will play someone out of position.......Once the French realise that rugby isn't ART allllllllllllllll of the time, they would be more consistent, hence more of a threat.

      jk - 2011-08-31 14:52

      saffa- i really dont want tp see you in a silly blue me that...

      Riaan - 2011-08-31 18:26

      @ Saffa-Cat agree 100%. Think the ugly rugby that SA and Eng dish up is the kind that will win you world cups and I think that could be the exact reason the AB's have always struggled in WC's though at home where they won in '87 they have a huge chance and are still favorites in my oppinion. I think the Aussies however will come undone come the knock-out stages!

  • mnet3 - 2011-08-31 14:08

    Sport24, dont know whether ABSA would approve of this free advertising for Sasol at their cost ??

  • rosemarie - 2011-08-31 14:09

    Yes -John you selfish ego driven excuse for a rugby player

      Inkwe - 2011-08-31 14:42

      Yes -rosemarie you righteous, all-knowing couch potato, sniping at our national captain from behind the anonimity of the internet. You sure are a better person than John Smit. /sarc off

      jbcloete - 2011-08-31 15:44

      You dont even know the man

  • The Situation - 2011-08-31 15:15

    Patriotism is what is important at this point. I mean the squad is annouced and there's nothing anybody will say (even ex Boks e.g. Ollie) to change the selections. Let's support the blokes! THEY ARE SOUTH AFRICANS FOR FLIP-SAKE! BOKS!

  • hehe - 2011-08-31 16:02

    I didn't want John Smit and certain others asw part of the World Cup team, but there is nothing I can do about it but complain..I would hope they end their careers on a high, but please, after this World Cup, also take that Habana with you.

  • Northern Stormer - 2011-08-31 16:06

    Just let them retire - they are way past their best before date - overrated and useless !!!!!!!! Liability to Boks in NZ - both of them !!!!!!!!!

      jk - 2011-08-31 16:18

      agree- the only positive point is wp rugby!!!

      GraemeBB - 2011-08-31 22:57

      @Northern Stormer - Thank the heavens that Victor is still there buddy. If you want to see a shambles, Victor must pick-up an injury. One starts to feel the pressure of Bekker's injury now - no one to step into Victor's shoes if desaster strikes at RWC. Victor still adds alot of value to the Boks, and I hope he retires on a high.

      Northern Stormer - 2011-09-01 05:54

      @GraemeBB - True words that you spoke there my friend and by coincidence also a fact no-one can deny !! We in any case need the cup back here which will obviously be the only "high" he must be aiming for !! Go Boks !!!

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