Matfield set for record

2014-06-19 00:00

MBOMBELA — In a remarkable tribute, Victor Matfield was yesterday described by his long-time ally and coach, Heyneke Meyer, as an “extraordinary man”.

When the Bok coach was asked to say more on the new record number of 112 Tests the 37-year-old Matfield will play on Saturday against Wales, Meyer said the veteran lock can become even better. “I know him well. I have believed all the way that if he can just [again] play at this level, he will become better.

“This is how it works with top class players. When the pressure is on, they must stand up and shine like diamonds.

“If he is blessed, stays without injury and gets selected, Victor will be at his best in the Rugby Championship when we play against Australia and New Zealand,” Meyer said.

It is against the stronger countries that Meyer believes the big lock will come into his own.

On Saturday Matfield will pass former Bok captain John Smit’s record of 111 Tests to become the most experienced Bok yet.

He will also be captaining the team as one of the oldest players to date — 37 years and 41 days. Johan Ackermann played a Test at 37 years and 34 days.

Meyer said he has noted and appreciated the steady improvement in Matfield’s game since the start of the year, making special reference to Matfield’s consistency in the lineouts and under the kick-offs as a key part of the Bok campaign against New Zealand.

“But also what he brings to the team as a leader. During half time on Saturday he was very calm and got the team focused and ready,” Meyer said about the Bok win of 38-16.

Matfield will not play in his famed partnership with Bakkies Botha on Saturday, as Botha is being rested.

He will instead bind in the second row of the scrum with his provincial team-mate Flip van der Merwe.

Another of the Boks’ most senior players and another of Matfield’s one-time provincial team-mates, wing Bryan Habana, will also be in the starting 15 on Saturday, despite only joining the team tomorrow.

Habana’s wife Janine gave birth to their first child, Timothy Jacob, on Sunday and Meyer gave him leave to be with his family.

“We are trying to establish a family culture in the team,” said Meyer. “I have [with rugby] missed many things like this — a new baby, wedding anniversaries, a brother’s wedding.

“Those things are important in players’ lives. If the players know that I support them in their private affairs, they will always go out and achieve on the field.

“With me it was not even a question whether [Habana] should get time off. He will be back again on Friday,” Meyer said.

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