Matfield faces latest test on comeback trail

Matfield faces latest test on comeback trail

It will also mark another important staging post in the 37-year-old’s comeback from retirement.


Matfield, who will captain the side, will surpass John Smit’s record of 111 tests for South Africa, something that would have been unthinkable a few months ago and following his retirement in 2011.

Coach Heyneke Meyer has made no secret of his desire to use Matfield’s experience and extraordinary aerial ability at the World Cup next year, but, like the oldest student on campus, the lock needs to pass a few more exams first.

Last weekend, in South Africa’s 38-16 victory in Durban, Matfield produced a solid ‘B’ performance, and Meyer now expects him to step it up the more he plays after returning to Super Rugby this year.

“I think Victor can get better. I think he will get steadily better and I expect that he will reach his peak this year when we play against New Zealand and Australia in the Rugby Championship,” Meyer told reporters, before adding that the second-rower brings more to the team than just a spring at the lineout.

“Everyone knows about his lineout work, but what I don’t think a lot of people realise is how important his contribution is when fielding the kick-offs.

“That was an area where New Zealand were better than us last year, but, as we saw this past week, Victor is able to cover a big area in dealing with the kick-offs.

“He puts in a lot of tackles as well, and is just an unbelievable leader who leads by example both on and off the field.”

Meyer expects Matfield and the remainder of the side to receive a tougher test this weekend against a Welsh side playing their final game of the season and still, after 50 years of trying, seeking a first win on South African soil.

“They’ve had another week together and will be keen to lift their game on Saturday, but at the same time we were not happy with certain aspects of our game and we’ve worked hard to rectify that,” Meyer said.

“This is their last match of the season, so we’re expecting them to come out firing. But we also want to make a step up and ensure we keep on improving as the season progresses.”

Wales coach Warren Gatland is looking for an improvement on the timid opening 70 minutes his side displayed in Durban.

“We have been really happy with the response from the players during training this week,” Gatland said in a statement released by WRU on Thursday.

“We have had a good week and we see Saturday as an opportunity to right the wrongs of last weekend.”

Both sides made two changes to their starting line-up, South Africa replacing lock Bakkies Botha and prop Gurthro Steenkamp with Flip van der Merwe and Tendai Mtawarira respectively.

Wales have brought in flank Josh Turnbull and prop Samson Lee for Aaron Shingler and Adam Jones.


South Africa: 15-Willie le Roux, 14-Cornal Hendricks, 13-JP Pietersen, 12-Jan Serfontein, 11-Bryan Habana, 10-Morne Steyn, 9-Fourie du Preez, 8-Duane Vermeulen, 7-Willem Alberts, 6-Francois Louw, 5-Victor Matfield (captain), 4-Flip van der Merwe, 3-Jannie du Plessis, 2-Bismarck du Plessis, 1-Tendai Mtawarira

Replacements: 16-Schalk Brits, 17-Gurthro Steenkamp, 18-Coenie Oosthuizen, 19-Lood de Jager, 20-Schalk Burger, 21-Ruan Pienaar 22-Wynand Olivier, 23-Lwazi Mvovo

Wales: 15-Liam Williams, 14-Alex Cuthbert, 13-Jonathan Davies, 12-Jamie Roberts, 11-George North, 10-Dan Biggar, 9-Mike Phillips, 8-Taulupe Faletau, 7-Josh Turnbull, 6-Dan Lydiate, 5-Alun Wyn Jones (captain), 4-Luke Charteris, 3-Samson Lee, 2-Ken Owens, 1-Gethin Jenkins

Replacements: 16-Matthew Rees, 17-Paul James, 18-Aaron Jarvis, 19-Jake Ball, 20-Dan Baker, 21-Gareth Davies, 22-James Hook, 23-Matthew Morgan

Referee: Steve Walsh (Australia)

(Reporting by Nick Said; editing by Stephen Wood)