Victor Matfield has apologised for comments he made following the Springboks’ first Test against Australia wherein he questioned Damian Willemse’s quality as a player.
Following the last-minute loss to the Wallabies, Matfield made a crude generalisation and assigned much of the blame for the defeat on replacement back Damian Willemse.
Willemse came on to replace flyhallf Handre Pollard, who himself was having a poor game, and missed a conversion attempt that would have extended the Boks’ lead in the last few minutes. Despite the utility back putting in a try-saving tackle on Reece Hodge, many chose to focus instead on the missed conversion.
“I am not sure Damian Willemse is a great rugby player,” bemoaned Matfield. The comment was met with indignation online as many felt that Matfield was being unduly harsh on Willemse.
Now the 127-cap Springbok has apologised for his comments and explained that he had not expressed his opinion correctly. On SuperSport’s Monday night Afrikaans-language rugby programme, Matfield sought to clear the air.
“I’d like to take the opportunity to clear up a matter after the first Test where I was trying to make a point… that I was concerned over a second recognised place-kicker, in a Test where Handre [Pollard] didn’t kick too well.
“My point, unfortunately, came across wrongly. I immediately said sorry to Damian the following morning… as an old Springbok you don’t want to be attacking someone.
“I back him, he’s a fantastic player and I have said as much a few times previously. I just wanted to rectify this.”
Matfield appeared genuinely remorseful for what seemed to be a ham-fisted comment made at the time. Flanked by Schalk Burger and Breyton Paulse, the three former Springboks pledged their support to the side in their upcoming 100th Test against New Zealand.