As the year draws to a close, with the Vodacom Bulls having enjoyed the success of back-to-back Currie Cup titles and getting a taste of the Vodacom United Rugby Championship, diligent prop Simphiwe Matanzima reflects positively on the year that was.
The 24-year-old loosehead prop proved an instrumental figure in the Bulls team throughout the year with some key performances and establishing himself as one of the players to look out for in South African rugby. This after some struggles with injury in previous seasons.
“It’s nice to be back,” reflected the Eastern Cape-born Matanzima.
“Especially coming into a new system with a winning culture which we have seen this year. I’m enjoying the game again. It feels awesome and I can’t wait to build on that.”
While vying for a spot in a team full of talented front rowers which include Lizo Gqoboka and Gerhard Steenekamp among his positional competitors, Matanzima has added to the healthy internal team competition.
So impressive was Matanzima this year that he earned a spot in the inaugural Champions Team that took on Kenya at Loftus Versfeld on 6 November. An added feather to his cap was the fact that he was appointed captain of the team that emerged as 85-17 victors over the East African nation, proving his capabilities as a leader.
A proven strong scrummager, Matanzima is pleased with the progress his side has been making in the set pieces, especially after having to venture into new territory – playing on unfamiliar 4G pitches on their tour of Europe at the start of the URC.
“I don’t think we need to change much in terms of our scrums. Playing in the northern hemisphere, with the different interpretations from the refs, it was a bit of a challenge in the previous games, and also playing on those 4G pitches and getting used to that.
“We just look forward to big scrum battles going forward. We need to stick to our principles and continue doing what we do best.
“This year we were at the top during the Currie Cup. I think we are all improving as front row and [forwards] coach Russell Winter is doing a good job with us. We are all looking to improve and get better every time.”
Photo: © Christiaan Kotze/BackpagePix