Matfield – Div consulted with us
Former Springbok vice-captain Victor Matfield has admitted that he and a group of senior players had a say in the team’s selection and tactical decisions.
Reports that Matfield, team captain John Smit and other senior players who were part of the 2007 World Cup winning side, had taken charge of the team, emerged half-way through Peter de Villiers’ tenure as coach.
The allegations were denied at first, but now Matfield has conceded that De Villiers didn’t have any option but to include senior players in the decision-making process
“When Peter first came in, he really wanted to coach and he had lots of ideas but I think he quickly realised that we had set our minds on how we actually wanted to play,” said Matfield.
“He didn’t step back, but he sat down and said ‘Ok, let’s do this together’. Every week on a Monday morning we would sit with all the assistant coaches, Peter and about three or four senior players. Later on it was a bit more, during the World Cup.
“We would just sit down and really talk about how we really wanted to play. They would listen to our input, we would listen to their input and then we made a decision together.”
Matfield said although De Villiers often consulted himself and Smit, the coach always had the “final say”.
De Villiers has come under intense criticism over the past two years for allowing players to dictate to him, but Matfield believes the coach’s inclusive style was best for the team.
“At Springbok level I don’t think there is a lot you can tell Schalk Burger about how to defend.
“There’s not a lot of guys who can tell me how to run a line-out. There’s not a lot of guys who can technically tell Fourie Du Preez what to do,” said Matfield. “The main job of a head coach is to get everyone to think in the same direction.”
Matfield added that De Villiers was a vastly different coach from his predecessor, Jake White. While White had a better technical understanding of the game, De Villiers was better at keeping the players happy.
“The relationships Peter had were just unbelievable. If Jake was more like a coach, Peter was more like a manager – just keeping everything together, getting people in and just managing the whole system.”
The Springbok legend has just released a book titled Victor, My Journey.