Saints star Matfield ready to drive Springboks to World Cup glory

Saints star Victor Matfield insists he can complete the job that dragged him out of retirement and drive South Africa to an unprecedented third World Cup triumph.

By The Newsroom
Thursday, 22nd October 2015, 7:30 pm
Victor Matfield will be on the South Africa bench
Victor Matfield will be on the South Africa bench

Fit-again Matfield will take a seat on the Springboks’ bench for Saturday’s World Cup semi-final clash with defending-champions New Zealand at Twickenham.

The 38-year-old totem and former captain will be entrusted with guiding the Springboks through the anticipated frenzied finish in London this weekend.

Springboks boss Heyneke Meyer has brought Matfield back in a bid to send a bench full of closers into a contest he fully expects to be decided by a single score.

“I came back to be at the World Cup,” said Matfield, who retired in 2011 but reversed that decision three years later.

“I believe this is a team that can win the World Cup and I want to be part of it.

“It’s going to be a big occasion and one in which I am privileged to be involved.

“If you look at all the big games - especially between South Africa and New Zealand - they go down to the wire every time.

“Those last five or 10 minutes are very important.

“They are all about composure and doing the right thing - keeping calm and putting pressure on the other team.

“The last five or 10 minutes will be crucial on Saturday I’m 100 per cent sure.”

Matfield retired after the 2011 World Cup, moving into punditry and coaching, but quickly realised he had hung up his boots prematurely.

Now 38, the 2007 World Cup-winner joked he could even stretch his impressive longevity to the next global gathering, in Japan.

“Well I’m hoping they’ll give me another contract,” joked Matfield, when light-heartedly asked if he could push his career to 2019.

“In all seriousness, I’m just hoping I’ve got two more games for the Springboks.”

South Africa beat New Zealand 27-25 in October 2014, a last-minute penalty sealing Meyer’s first win over the All Blacks.

Ever since claiming the Webb Ellis Cup in 2007 Matfield has had precious little to prove, and yet eight years on he could still be integral to an unlikely triumph.

Matfield looked as stunned as anyone as Japan powered to a last-minute 34-32 victory over the Springboks to open this year’s World Cup.

No side has ever lifted the trophy after suffering a defeat earlier in the campaign, but the Blue Bulls stalwart remains confident South Africa can make history.

Bullish young lock Lood de Jager has been selected to start despite doubts over a foot problem, with Matfield waiting in the wings to slot in if required.

“We have to focus on ourselves, we can’t control what they do,” said Matfield, urging calm from his team-mates.

“You can’t play the game before the game. It doesn’t help getting psyched up Wednesday - you lose energy like that.

“It’s all about being ready to take them on when the game starts.

“They are a quality side but we have come close against them a few times and beat them last year. We have a lot of belief.

“One moment could win or lose it for us. We can’t give them soft moments.

“It is all about pressure for 80 minutes and not giving them anything.

“I would be able to start if Lood were not ready for any reason. It would be a great honour.”