The International season is done for the Southern Hemisphere and for Springbok rugby for 2014 and the only rugby of real importance left for us southern rugby junkies, are the 2 remaining HSBC Sevens World Series Tournaments in 2014 – the Dubai Sevens this coming weekend and the Nelson Mandela Bay Sevens Tournament the week thereafter.
In the meantime the Southern Hemisphere Super Rugby sides are extremely busy with their preparation work, conditioning and getting ready for Super Rugby 2015.
The question is, what has the Springboks learnt from the year of 2014 and from the End Of Year Tour?
Will we see a total change of tack and a move away from the high-ball kick and chase bombs from the Springboks? Very few International Tests remain before the start of the Rugby World Cup 2015 (18 September 2015) in England, however a full season of Super Rugby and the abbreviated Rugby Championship still loom in 2015 before the World Cup starts.
With the first game of the Springboks End Of Year Tour (Castle Lager Outgoing Tour as it is also known as) looming large this weekend against the Northern Hemisphere’s SIX Nations champions, Ireland, at 19:30 SA Time on Saturday, the war of words are now surfacing.
Victor Matfield describes Paul O’Connell as his toughest lock opponent out there and says O’Connell knows how Matfield runs the lineouts.
From the Irish side, Ireland’s scrumhalf, Conor Murray, believes the Springboks are better than in previous years and is weary of the threat Handré Pollard and Francois Hougaard presents on the weekend.
Mr Oregan Hoskins, president of the South African Rugby Union (SARU), accompanied by a Springbok delegation on Friday visited the recuperating former “Coloured Springboks” captain Salie Fredericks at his house in Gordon’s Bay.
Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer, team manager Ian Schwartz, captain Jean de Villiers and vice-captain Victor Matfield accompanied Mr Hoskins, as they wished Mr Fredericks well with his recovery from surgery.
Fredericks, who was labelled as the “Black Frik du Preez” by some newspapers in his playing days, played more than 200 provincial matches for Western Province in competitions of the former South African Coloured Rugby Football Board, and later the non-racial and anti-apartheid South African Rugby Union.
The formidable presence of No 8 Duane Vermeulen could be missing from the Springbok arsenal when they play their final Rugby Championship match of the year against the All Blacks at Ellis Park next Saturday.
Vermeulen left the field late in the second half with a rib injury, and with Schalk Burger having already come onto the field for Teboho Mohoje, that meant that a lock, Victor Matfield, had to take up position on the side of the scrum.
South Africa’s aggressive new breakdown tactics will leave them exposed to penalties and short on tacklers out wide, the Wallabies believe, while Australia’s forwards coach Andrew Blades has taken aim at Victor Matfield for trying to manipulate referees.
The Wallabies woke up in Cape Town to headlines of their scrum “tricks” and articles suggesting they manipulated referees into giving them penalties rather than earning them.
And still ringing fresh in their ears is Matfield’s comments after his side lost 24-23 in Perth three weeks ago, in which he questioned the legality of the Wallabies’ tactics in stopping the Boks’ rolling maul.
Blades brushed off the barbs as Australia prepares to face South Africa this weekend at Newlands, where they have not won since 1992.
Victor Matfield can remember the time when he turned the All Blacks lineout into a jellyfish.
The veteran Springboks lock believes those days are over, but says South Africa can beat the All Blacks at Westpac Stadium on Saturday night.
“There was a time when their lineout didn’t fire, and now I think it is almost the best [in the world] to go up against,” the 37-year-old said today.
“I think they probably analyse it more, see it as a facet of its own and put a lot of time into it.
“They contest very well and I think they spend a lot more time at the lineout than they did in those early years.”
He is 37, last played a Test match in Australia four years ago — and he’s standing in the way of the Wallabies and redemption.
Victor Matfield, the legendary lock who will suit up for the Springboks on Saturday night, is one of world rugby’s all-time greats.
He’s been off the Wallabies’ radar for a while, understandable given that he retired from all rugby at the end of 2011. But after dusting off his boots at the start of the year he’s back firmly in their sights.
HE’S BEEN LABELLED A MAN OF STEEL
There’s adding steel to the Springboks pack, and then there’s literally adding steel to the Springboks pack.
Wallabies prop James Slipper says it’s unfair to single out five-eighth Kurtley Beale for criticism following the side’s recent 51-20 loss to the All Blacks in New Zealand.
Calls are growing for Beale to be replaced at flyhalf by Bernard Foley for Saturday night’s Rugby Championship clash with South Africa in Perth.
Jan Serfontein, Morné Steyn, Adriaan Strauss, Victor Matfield en Marcell Coetzee ín. Damian de Allende, Handré Pollard, Bismarck du Plessis en Lood de Jager uit.
Moenie verbaas wees indien Heyneke Meyer dié verrassende skuiwe maak in sy Springbokspan wat die Wallabies Saterdag in Perth in die Rugbykampioenskap pak nie.
The Springboks made three changes to their starting XV, with two of them effecting the line-out structures – which already appeared weak in Pretoria last week.
The line-out has long been a strength of the Boks, and a lot of this dominance in the set pieces can be attributed to the maestro that is Victor Matfield.
The veteran lock was sorely missed last weekend when the Boks’ line-out struggled, in albeit poor conditions, against the Argentineans at Loftus Versfeld.
The Springboks have landed in Argentina with no injury concerns, but Meyer will be forced to ponder the likes of fit-again Pat Lambie and Juan Smith.
Having come away from the wet and wild Loftus Versfeld with only an injury before the game to Willem Alberts, Meyer will have a full compliment to pick from when they play Argentina in Salta.
Meyer has now picked up Lions captain Warren Whiteley as cover for Alberts who is staying at home alongside Victor Matfield.
Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer has been given a massive boost with the news that he should be able to pick as close to his strongest side for this weekend’s Castle Lager Rugby Championship opener against Argentina at Loftus Versfeld.
Team doctor Craig Roberts cleared props Frans Malherbe, Tendai “Beast” Mtawarira and lock Eben Etzebeth for action and crucially also gave captain Jean de Villiers the all-clear to play this weekend after spending the last few months on the sidelines with injury.
Victor Matfield is suffering from a small tear in a cartilage after being sent for scans on Tuesday morning after feeling some discomfort in his knee at training on Monday.
He was seen by an orthopaedic specialist in Pretoria and will be unavailable for the Test against Argentina at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday 16 August.
Springboks coach Heyneke Meyer continues his “Dad’s Army” approach by recalling veteran flanker Juan Smith for a training camp ahead of next month’s Rugby Championship.
French club Toulon confirmed three of their South African signings – Smith, lock Bakkies Botha and wing Bryan Habana – would be involved in the Boks camp.
Smith, 32, hasn’t played for the Boks since 2010 as Achilles injuries requiring four surgeries ravaged his career, eventually forcing him to “retire” early last year.
Cosatu has called on ministers and sport administrators to intervene and bring more black players into South African rugby.
The trade union federation released a media statement in which it criticises the white “old boys club” which it believes still rules rugby in South Africa.
It follows the Springboks’ 55-6 win over Scotland in Port Elizabeth at the weekend – a match which was preceded by SARU president Oregan Hoskins urging Bok coach Heyneke Meyer to pick more black players.
Meyer did include a few more black players in his squad for the game in Port Elizabeth, but Cosatu was not impressed.
Victor Matfield will on Saturday become the most-capped Test player in the history of South African rugby when he leads the Springboks against Wales in his 112th Test match at the Mbombela Stadium in Nelspruit.
Matfield made his Test debut on 30 June 2001 against Italy in Port Elizabeth. He retired after the Rugby World Cup in 2011 on 110 caps, but made a highly successful return to the game earlier this year.
“This is a fantastic accolade for Victor,” said Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer on Wednesday.
“He has been a terrific servant of the game in South Africa and has led his country with distinction since returning to the Green and Gold.”
The value of having veteran Bakkies Botha in the Springbok squad could be measured by how much time it takes new cap Lood de Jager to settle and become comfortable at international level.
The influence that the likes of Botha and now Victor Matfield could have on the development of the young players in the squad has often been referred to as one of the main reasons for having them in the mix.
It was when he saw the awe with which the youngsters regarded Botha when he joined the Boks in Wales last year that coach Heyneke Meyer made the decision to get the one half of the legendary “Blood Brother” combination into the mix more regularly.
But there is nothing quite like hearing it direct from the horse’s mouth, and De Jager left little doubt after his announcement in the match day 23 for Saturday’s first test against Wales here in Durban on Saturday that the presence of both Botha and Matfield has added even greater impetus to what has already been a special time for him.
Victor Matfield will captain the Springboks in the Castle Lager Incoming Series this month in the absence of the injured Jean de Villiers – and he will lead them out for the first time since his return to rugby in Saturday’s match against a star-studded World XV, sponsored by Samsung, at Newlands (kick off 17:00 SA Time).
The June Internationals are close at hand and Heyneke Meyer has already showed his hand to a certain extent by selecting a Springbok Training Group, which currently excludes players plying their trade in the UK and Europe.
The recent injury to Springbok captain, Jean de Villiers, now determines that a “Stand-in” Springbok captain will have to be selected and coupled to this the Springbok midfield positions are bound to be re-constituted.
Injuries to key players, specially flyhalf, as well as the 3-match suspension of Adriaan Strauss at hooker will see some juggling around of the match-day 23 and some very clear thinking will be required by Heyneke Meyer to address these issues.
We take a look at the Springbok Captaincy candidates as well as midfield combination and look at hooker options to function as back-up to Bismarck du Plessis.
“Blood brothers” Victor Matfield and Bakkies Botha could be reunited as the Springbok lock pairing in Test matches this year, the Rapport newspaper indicates.
Botha, 34, recently returned to action for his French club Toulon after missing most of the year with a broken arm. He was a key figure for Toulon when they won the Heineken Cup final at the weekend, beating English club Saracens 23-6 at Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium.
Just a few months ago it would have been unthinkable, but the stage is set now for Victor Matfield to lead the Springboks into battle this year not only as a player, but possibly also as captain.
According to reports, with Jean de Villiers out for eight weeks with injury, Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer will have to find a new leader for the team as they head into four hard test weeks in June before embarking on a very important Castle Rugby Championship a year before the World Cup.
Much has been said about Matfield’s return to the playing field after he retired after the 2011 Rugby World Cup, but even now there can be few who don’t believe he is up to international rugby, even at the ripe old age of 37.
World champion Springboks Victor Matfield and Schalk Burger as well as two former Blitzbok stars, Cornal Hendricks and S’bura Sithole, are included in a 36-man squad to attend a national training camp in Durban from 25 to 28 May, the South African Rugby Union announced on Monday.
Cell C Sharks back Sithole and Hendricks, the SA Sevens Player of the Year in 2013, are two of eight uncapped players in the squad. The others are the Toyota Cheetahs duo of Lood de Jager (lock) and Teboho “Oupa” Mohoje (loose forward); Marcel van der Merwe (prop) and Jacques du Plessis (flank/lock) of the Vodacom Bulls; Marnitz Boshoff (flyhalf) of the Lions and the DHL Stormers’ Damian De Allende (centre/wing).
They will join Matfield, Burger and Toyota Cheetahs flanker Heinrich Brüssow – who are back in the national set up for the first time since the last Rugby World Cup in 2011 – in a training squad that is missing a number of players due to injury.
Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer said he was happy with the form of a number of the country’s top players and the uncapped players who have grabbed their chance this season, as well as the re-appearance from retirement and long-term injury of Matfield and Burger.
They may not be the same vintage as the 2009 and 2010 Vodacom Super Rugby champion team, but the Vodacom Bulls are steadily starting to believe in themselves – and that makes them very dangerous as the competition starts winding down to its business end.
But the Bulls know their real test was not against the struggling DHL Stormers last Saturday, but rather in a fortnight’s time when they face the Australian conference leaders, and the side that put them out of the semifinals last year – the Brumbies.
He may not be as dynamic all over the park as in days gone by, but Bulls lock Victor Matfield remains the lineout king in Super Rugby.
The Springbok captained the Bulls in their final tour match against the Force in Perth last week after regular skipper Flip van der Merwe was suspended for punching.
Matfield did not succeed in spurring his team-mates to a first victory on tour, but one area in which they dominated, was at lineout time.
Vodacom Bulls coach Frans Ludeke made five changes to his starting line-up to face the Force in Perth on Saturday, with suspension, rotation and injury forcing his hand.
Three changes are at the back.
Jurgen Visser has recovered from the foot injury that ruled him out of the Waratahs clash shortly before kick-off and slots in at fullback, where he replaces Ulrich Beyers. Francois Hougaard moves back to the base of the scrum following the knee-injury sustained by Piet van Zyl and a fit-again Akona Ndungane returns to his regular spot on the wing.
There will be a 39-year-old facing off against a 36-year-old in Dunedin on Friday.
No, it is not in an old-crocks club game, but a high-charged Super Rugby encounter – when two of the most respected locks, both World Cup winners, go head-to-head.
The Vodacom Bulls have made known, through their official Facebook Page, the names of the team to take on the Highlanders on Friday 11 April 2014.
As expected after the injuries to Dewald Potgieter and Deon Stegmann, who both have had to return to South Africa as a result of longer term injuries, Grant Hattingh gets the nod at No 8, with Jono Ross selected at openside flank (No 6) and with Jacques du Plessis at blindside flank (No 7).
Jacques “Vleis” Engelbrecht reverts to the bench.
Vodacom Bulls coach Frans Ludeke included fit-again lock and regular captain, Flip van der Merwe, for his side’s Vodacom Super Rugby match against the Hurricanes in Napier on Saturday.
The 67 cap lock takes over the captaincy and number five jersey from Victor Matfield in one of two changes to the starting pack that played against the Chiefs. In the other, Jacques Engelbrecht comes in at number 8, with Dewald Potgieter moving to the side of the scrum in place of Jacques du Plessis, who moves to the bench.
The Bulls’ 34-34 draw with defending Super Rugby champions, the Chiefs was akin to defeat, stand-in captain Victor Matfield said after the match at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria on Saturday.
The hosts allowed the Chiefs to enforce the draw in the final 10 minutes of the match despite a 16-point advantage.
“Anything else than a victory at home feels like a loss, we’ll take the two points, it is against the champions but we should have had five,” Matfield said.
Victor Matfield is still valuable, but definitely not the player he was, says Sharks director of rugby Jake White.
White was speaking after his side lost 23-19 to the Bulls at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday night.
Bulls coach Frans Ludeke said that a few key ajustments made by Victor Matfield have been central to their recent success.
The Bulls beat the Sharks in their return match at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday, handing the visitors their first defeat of the season.
Vodacom Bulls lock Flip van der Merwe has been ruled out of Saturday’s Vodacom Super Rugby clash against the Cell C Sharks due to a hamstring strain.
His place in the team will be taken by Paul Willemse, who will move from the bench into the number four jersey. The captaincy will be taken over by Victor Matfield.
Former Springbok captain Victor Matfield’s role ahead of this year’s international season has taken on vital importance, especially with the season-ending injury to Cell C Sharks player Pieter-Steph du Toit.
Matfield, who starred in the Vodacom Bulls’ win over the Blues a fortnight ago, will now feature even more prominently in Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer’s plans for the upcoming season, especially with the dearth of five locks around the country at the moment.
Jacques-Louis Potgieter will earn a first Vodacom Bulls start at flyhalf since 15 May 2010 when the home side host the Lions in their first home match of the Vodacom Super Rugby competition at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday.
The 29-year old pivot is one of four changes made to the starting side that came up short in Bloemfontein last weekend, with Grant Hattingh (as no 8), Victor Matfield (at no 5) and Frik Kirsten (as starting tighthead) the others to earn a start on the weekend.
Victor Matfield has revealed his ambitions to coach the Springboks in future.