Why Big Vic hasn’t been so bad
Rob Houwing, Sport24 chief writer
Cape Town – It might surprise some people to learn who lies among the top two South African tacklers after two rounds of Super Rugby 2015.
Victor Matfield – sometimes accused of being so committed to his lineout core area of excellence that he neglects other duties – has already made 25 successful hits on opponents if latest statistics from the competition are to be believed.
This writer was among critics who felt the 37-year-old, who is trying to hang in for one further World Cup crack later this year, upped his overall work-rate in the Bulls’ desperately narrow latest loss to the Hurricanes at Loftus on Friday.
It did not stop outspoken former Bok colleague Ollie le Roux from suggesting in an interview that Matfield was “playing like an old man” in early Super Rugby combat, where the Bulls find themselves an unflattering nought from two.
But the rangy lock seemed to put himself about in open play to a far greater extent than he did against the Stormers a week earlier, and it is perhaps on those grounds that his tackle count suddenly looks pretty healthy.
In purely South African terms, Matfield is second only to new Bulls colleague and loose forward Lappies Labuschagne for tackles: the former Cheetahs tearaway has made an eye-catching 38 of those, to lead the overall standings by some distance from Matt Todd (Crusaders) and Michael Hooper (Waratahs) on 31 each.
But as reported earlier on Sport24, Matfield is ironically playing second fiddle in his most beloved department to much younger compatriot and challenger for the Bok No 5 jersey Pieter-Steph du Toit of the Sharks.
The 22-year-old Du Toit sports 14 lineout grabs to lie second only to the Brumbies’ Sam Carter (16) in the category thus far; the Sharks lock has presently double the tally of legendary Matfield, who boasts seven – another South African in Lions captain Warren Whiteley has eight.
With some 15 years dividing them in age terms, there is an engrossing direct battle between Matfield and Du Toit in the SA conference derby at Loftus on Saturday (17:05 kick-off), where the former may be dead keen to close the statistical gap at lineout time ...
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