You would think that there should be no concern from anybody regarding the return to rugby for Victor Matfield as the brutality of Super Rugby will clearly prove whether he still is in good enough shape to play top rugby or not. But unfortunately that does not seem to be the case as recent reports suggest that he will be used sparingly. At the start of the season will only come on as replacement. The reason for this is apparently so he will be shielded to ensure he is ready for Bok rugby later in the year. That is totally ridiculous. The only way he will be ready for Bok rugby is if he plays a lot of Super Rugby and also if he starts a lot of games. Last year in the Currie Cup final Schalk Burger was bullied by the Sharks because he was not accustomed to the physicality. What makes even less sense is that Heyneke Meyer turned a no4 lock in Flip vd Merwe into a no5 lock to keep up with the current battlefield that is test rugby. This worked brilliantly and helped to ensure that the Boks came out on tops in most instances during 2013. To go back to Matfield seems like 3 steps in the wrong direction.
But it is January and everybody is still very positive so instead of just complaining let’s see how this is going to work. Reports suggest that it is definitely going to happen so we should just accept that fact and think about what is the best way forward. The thinking must be to build the game plan very much around Matfield. A lot of the plays will generate from kickoffs and lineouts as the Boks should not have any issues in securing possession in these areas. But I don’t think it will be a case like it was in 2007 where we kick possession away and wait for the opposition to make mistakes. The current rules of the game benefit the team with the ball too much to be able to do that. It will be more a case of the Boks keeping possession and controlling it for as long as possible and then waiting for gaps to appear or penalites to be given away where the opposition becomes inpatient.
We all know that Matfield is not known for his physicality and ability at the breakdown and therefore the other 7 forwards will always have to be on top of their game in these regards. It will always have to be Bismarck ahead of Strauss and Vermeulen ahead of Spies. Otherwise we will be found lacking not only against the All Blacks but also the Aussies and the English. So it is definitely not all doom and gloom and it can work if carried out correctly. Brains have brawn in many top flight games. If that was not the case the All Blacks would have had many more World Cup titles!