Gary Boshoff

Matfield decision key for Boks

2007-11-19 08:57

Gary Boshoff

The news that Victor Matfield is contemplating opting out of his contract with his new French employers must be music to the ears of whoever is going to coach the Blue Bulls and Springboks next year.

Though it will leave him a few million short in the bank, I believe his shares on the South African market are sure to rise accordingly in the next few months.

It was barely a few weeks ago when the availability of overseas-based players (Matfield included) became the latest hot potato in SA Rugby.

The decision by the presidents' council to grant the players an interim reprieve on their eligibility for the Springboks, was in my view, to be expected. Even the presidents' council can see that in the context of modern professional sport, it will soon become impossible for South Africa to retain its top players in local competition structures.

Excessive fatigue

The recent RWC has lifted the profile of rugby as a global sport and a commercial enterprise in its own right. The game is now finally entrenched as one of the cornerstones of the Global Sport Industrial Complex. In a few years it will be common place to see up to half of the Springbok team playing for foreign clubs.

Notwithstanding this inevitability, I often wonder how the same players that in recent times complained about excessive fatigue and long seasons are going to cope with the very congested French league and the Heineken Cup being played at the same time.

On top of this they envisage playing for the Springboks during the incoming tours in June/July and then immediately thereafter in the Tri-Nations. Inevitably it seems, something's going to give! I will not be surprised if it was the prospect of this non-stop season which has led to Matfield's cold feet.

I have in the past witnessed many situations where people change their "principled positions" very quickly when the number on the contract in front of them is too inviting to reject.

Testimony

Take for instance the case of former Springbok captain Francois Pienaar who after the 1995 RWC testified in favour of the Springbok emblem at the NSC's Emblem Committee.

During his testimony he described his passion for and loyalty to South African rugby. It was the same Pienaar who a few months later was identified as the local agent who was trying to recruit Springboks for a new professional rugby league in Australia.

I thus find it somewhat strange that John Smit, Percy Montgomery, Matfield and some of the other "very tired Springboks" can now see themselves playing week in and week out for their clubs and still be available for South Africa's Test commitments!

Exhausted

I have heard no mention or concern raised about how they might be extended beyond their physical capabilities during this period. Even Jake White who was very concerned about his players' well-being has urged them to stay available for selection to the Springboks.

I guess when there are enough zeroes in the contract then possible fatigue is the last thing on our mind.

That is the reason why I am so exited at the prospect of Matfield staying, because, if Tim Noakes and Dr Derrick Coetzee are to be believed, a tired, exhausted Matfield will be no benefit to any Springbok side.

  • Gary Boshoff is a former Saru player and well-known rugby administrator.

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