Matfield could lead Springboks
Rumours that Springbok legend Victor Matfield will come out of retirement and lead his nation in a three-Test June home series against England are refusing to go away.
Initially dismissed as an April Fools joke orchestrated by the local media, a belief that the 34-year-old World Cup winner could don the green and gold again after retiring in October gathered strength this week.
Injuries to flankers Schalk Burger and Juan Smith – considered the main candidates to succeed retired hooker John Smit as skipper – have complicated the captaincy issue with the first Test less than two months away.
The expected return of Burger for the ongoing DHL Stormers Super Rugby tour of Australasia failed to materialise after he was injured on the opening weekend of the season and Smith may be sidelined until next year.
“New Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer asked me to make a comeback to the playing field and it is something I am giving thought to, but we are a long way from anything being decided,” stressed Matfield in a TV interview.
“If it were not Heyneke asking me, I would not even be considering it,” added the 110-cap warrior, whose dream of a second World Cup winners medal was dashed last October by a narrow last-eight loss to Australia in Wellington, New Zealand.
Matfield has been working as a consultant with the Bulls, a team he won three Super 14 winners medals with, and as a touchline analyst for Johannesburg-based pay TV channel SuperSport.
Meyer heightened speculation over the Springbok icon yesterday after a four-day Pretoria planning camp with selected players from the MTN Lions and Toyota Cheetahs Super Rugby squads.
“The captain for the England Test series will not necessarily be the same one for the rest of the season,” he said referring to six southern hemisphere championship games and a three-Test end-of-season tour to the UK.
“I will probably announce the captain a week before the first Test against England and there are a lot of great leaders to choose from,” added the coach who succeeded controversial Peter de Villiers after last year’s World Cup.
However, with Keegan Daniel (Sharks), Adriaan Strauss (Cheetahs) and Josh Strauss (Lions) unlikely starters against England and Burger injured, that leaves only eighthman Pierre Spies (Bulls) among the Super Rugby skippers.
Meyer said first-choice outside centre Jaque Fourie would not be available for Springbok selection while serving a two-year contract with Japanese outfit Kobe Steelers.
Butch James, flyhalf when the Springboks defeated England in the 2003 World Cup final at Stade de France, in France, announced his retirement from Test rugby this week after a 42-cap career.
South Africa host England on June 9 at Kings Park in Durban, Ellis Park in Johannesburg (June 16) and Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium in Port Elizabeth (June 23).