• ‘Bok response was special’

    Victor Matfield does not regret coming out of retirement and pushing for a place in the Springboks’ 2015 World Cup squad, reports JON CARDINELLI in London.

    Matfield accomplished a great deal during his first stint with the national side. The lock was at the peak of his powers between 2004 and 2009, and contributed in no small way to the Boks' two Tri-Nations titles, a series win against the British & Irish Lions, and the 2007 World Cup triumph.

    Heyneke Meyer convinced Matfield to come out of retirement in 2014. Matfield made his international comeback in the first Test of the season against Wales, and captained the side in the injury-enforced absence of Jean de Villiers. At that point, Matfield aimed to make the World Cup cut and help the Boks claim yet another world title.

    Two years have passed, and the Boks have failed in their quest for rugby’s Holy Grail. They have one more match, a third-place play-off against Argentina, before their season comes to an end. That game will also bring down the curtain on Matfield’s international career, this time for good.

    ‘Maybe there isn’t too much emotion around my retirement because it’s the second time it’s happened,’ Matfield said with a laugh. ‘When I came out of retirement, my goals were to make the World Cup squad and help South Africa win the trophy. Unfortunately, it didn’t happen that way.

    ‘I always said I would play any role that was asked of me, as a starter or as the guy who helped youngsters like Lood de Jager and Pieter-Steph du Toit develop. I enjoyed these past two years with the team. This is an unbelievable bunch of people.

    ‘Something special happened after that loss to Japan,’ Matfield continued. ‘The guys really came together and it is something I will never forget. They way the group stood up during that period made me very proud.’

    With Fourie du Preez ruled out of the match with a head injury, Matfield will have the chance to lead the team in his final match. While the Boks will respect Argentina and stick to their traditional game plan, Matfield feels there will be opportunities to play some attacking rugby.

    ‘We’ve scored some great tries at this tournament, and were second only to New Zealand after the first round for tries scored, he said. ‘We want to score tries and to be known as a team that scores tries.

    ‘It comes down to decision-making. Our chief decision-makers, particularly those at 9, 10 and 12 will have a big job to do against Argentina. Of course, it all starts with getting the job done upfront. We won’t take Argentina lightly.’

    Francois Louw, another one of the Boks’ senior players, confirmed that the team will be looking to prove a point.

    ‘From a playing perspective, we just want to round off this four-year cycle and this tournament with a win,’ he said. ‘We came so close to qualifying for the final, but unfortunately it wasn’t meant to be.

    ‘Our preparation for this tournament was awesome. We were faced with some big challenges in week one [following the defeat to Japan]. But we regrouped and stuck to the game plan and philosophy. Everyone bought into that.

    'The coaches provided us with the type of environment that allowed us to express ourselves. We don’t know what will happen to the management team after this game, so we are just looking to win this game and end on a high. We know that we will have to be at our best to beat Argentina.’

    Photo: Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

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    Jon Cardinelli