Victor Matfield (Gallo Images)
Cape Town – If the Springboks’ oldest player, Victor Matfield, earns suitably regular appearances at the looming World Cup, he should become South Africa’s most capped player in the prestigious tournament.
The durable, 38-year-old lineout supremo is already top of his country’s pile for all Test appearances (123).
But if he gets a role just in all four pool matches, either as a starter or off the bench, he will shift to 18 RWC caps from his current 14 – taking him above prior SA record-holder and victorious 2007 captain John Smit (17).
Smit is presently the most capped Bok for RWC career games, and in joint-10th overall alongside six other players; remember that South Africa was banned from the first two events (1987 and 1991).
The record for most RWC matches is held by former England prop Jason Leonard, who played in 22 games stretching between the 1991 and 2003 tournaments, with Australian scrumhalf George Gregan next best on 20 caps.
In what will definitely be his last of four World Cups, Matfield could move to a maximum tally of 21 caps – just behind Leonard -- if he plays in all seven games possibly involving the Boks, assuming they were to go all the way to the Twickenham final on October 31.
Other fellow-South Africans still ahead of him for RWC games at this point are Os du Randt (16) and Jaque Fourie, Danie Rossouw and Joost van der Westhuizen (each 15).
Matfield made his World Cup debut against Uruguay at Perth in the 2003 tournament, fittingly partnering long-time ally and friend Bakkies Botha in the second row as they thrashed the South Americans 72-6.
He went on to a total of four caps at that World Cup, then seven in 2007 (when he was a Webb Ellis Cup winner), and a further three at RWC 2011 when he was curtailed in the middle of it by a hamstring problem.
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