Former Springbok prop Ollie le Roux says Victor Matfield is no longer able to influence proceedings at Vodacom Super Rugby level. BRENTON CHELIN reports.
Matfield's glittering career is in danger of ending with a whimper. The 2015 World Cup in England, much like the one four years prior, has been earmarked for the famed lock's swansong.
But where there were question marks about whether Matfield still had more to offer following the event in New Zealand, the current crop of questions are far more ominous.
Le Roux, speaking to SARugbymag.co.za, is the latest to ask whether father time has finally caught up to the 37-year-old Bulls lock, and whether he can still contribute at Super Rugby level, let alone with the Boks later this year.
‘Victor Matfield is playing like an old man at the moment,' said Le Roux. 'He’s lost the presence he once had and even his lineout work is suffering.
'He just doesn’t have it in him to provide a physical presence around the park anymore, and the longer he goes on, the more his legacy will be tainted.
‘He’s got a massive battle this weekend against Pieter-Steph du Toit, who is younger and hungrier. Matfield will always be able to compete at the lineouts, but matches aren't won there, they're won in open play. Will he be able to match Du Toit in the other aspects of play? I'm not so sure.'
Commenting on the past weekend's matches, Le Roux said he was impressed with the Sharks' bonus-point win against the Lions in difficult conditions. After failing to impose themselves against the Cheetahs in the first round, the Sharks rebounded with a dominant forward display in Durban.
‘Bismarck du Plessis made a massive difference, where he once again showed his class. The Sharks looked a much better unit with him in the front row. The Lions simply weren’t able to handle the weight of their pack.‘
‘I was also impressed by the young guns – Dale Chadwick and Thomas du Toit. The injury to Beast Mtawarira might be a blessing in disguise, allowing those two the time to develop at Super Rugby level.'
The two sides will meet on Saturday at Loftus, with the Bulls still seeking their first victory of the season. Having already lost to the Stormers at home this season, the match takes on an added dimension in the race for the South African conference title.
'The Bulls are seriously underperforming when you look at the talent they have in their ranks,' said Le Roux. 'Yes, they only lost narrowly against the Hurricanes, but the good teams find a way to win by one or two points.'
'Despite having so many experienced players, they seem to be lacking leadership on the field. Someone like Duane Vermeulen leads by example for the Stormers, but I don't see anyone doing the same for the Bulls.'
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