Ex-Boks to consider return when Meyer takes over

2012-01-27 00:00

TWO world-class Springboks, lock Victor Matfield and scrumhalf Fourie du Preez, could come out of retirement following the rubber-stamping of Heyneke Meyer as the national coach in Cape Town today.

The pair, along with John Smit and Danie Rossouw, quit the international game after the Rugby World Cup in New Zealand last year. But with Meyer, their Blue Bulls mentor, about to be named as the new Springbok coach, Matfield and Du Preez are re-considering their international futures.

Matfield retired from all rugby late last year, and the Bulls quickly contracted him as a specialist lineout coach, while Du Preez is boosting his pension by playing club rugby in Japan this year.

Matfield is now 34 and his best days are behind him but he showed at the Rugby World Cup that he is still a formidable lineout presence while Du Preez, at 29, still has years in the game if he is fit and motivated.

Matfield has publicly acknowledged that he considers Meyer the best coach he has played under (and that irritated the heck out of Jake White).

Still, a return of the veteran lock seems unlikely and Matfield’s involvement with the Boks seems certain to be as a lineout adviser rather than a player. Matfield has already settled into retirement with his Bulls’ coaching contract and one with SuperSport as a rugby analyst. And his recall would not be necessary as Meyer has, in the Stormers’ Andries Bekker, a ready-made replacement for Matfield in the middle of the lineout.

Du Preez, in contrast, has a clause in his Japanese contract which will release him if he is required for national duty and it would be surprising if Meyer did not call on the scrumhalf he regards as the best in world rugby.

Both players have suggested to reporters that they would consider their futures if Meyer is appointed today. Indeed, his name seems to be the only one in the hat.

Du Preez, in endorsing Meyer’s appointment, emphasised that he would only return to the Boks if he was playing well and the coach needed him.

“I’d reconsider international retirement if Heyneke became coach. I would have to prove myself. He must want me. There can be no free rides but I’d love to play under him,” Du Preez said.

Meyer is Du Preez’s strongest supporter. He said last year that the scrumhalf was the hub of both the Bulls and Springboks teams, a player without any weakness and the most influential member of the teams he represented.

Du Preez, in turn, said that Meyer was the ideal replacement for Peter de Villiers.

“I think Heyneke would be the perfect candidate and he deserves the opportunity given what he’s achieved,” Du Preez said. “This will be a rebuilding year for the Boks and Heyneke has shown that there’s nobody better at putting structures into place for long-term success.

“He could build something that lasts beyond the four-year cycle between World Cups and I think we need that. He hasn’t been a head coach at Test level but indirectly he’s been responsible for much of the success of South African rugby through his player identification and player development at senior and junior level. A hands-on role would make him so much more valuable to South African rugby.”

Matfield told writers that he would wait until the official appointment of Meyer before talking about his future. “Everyone knows what I think about Heyneke. Let’s wait and see what happens. Everything has consequences. Playing, I don’t know … but we will see. It depends if he wants me. I really don’t know, it is difficult to say,” Matfield said.

The SA Rugby Union yesterday advanced the announcement of the new coach by two hours to noon. It will follow the special general meeting of Saru and will be televised live by SuperSport.

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