Bok coach Heyneke Meyer will be thrilled at the progress of Victor Matfield and the resurgence of Frans Steyn, writes MARK KEOHANE.
A month ago many doubted Matfield’s Super Rugby comeback. The veteran answered his critics with 66 outstanding minutes against the Sharks at Loftus.
Matfield made his return with a 20-minute cameo against the Sharks in Durban five weeks ago. But it was a more hardened and confident Matfield that fronted the Sharks in Pretoria.
Matfield’s physical game is improving every weekend and so is his influence in the lineout. The Bulls lineout, on their own ball, was flawless during Matfield’s time on the field and he made life very difficult for Sharks hooker Bismarck du Plessis and the Sharks lineout jumpers.
The Sharks lost two against the throw in the 66 minutes Matfield played and several other balls were messy wins that offered no gain.
The Sharks, robbed of fluency and certainty from a shaky lineout, offered minimal attacking threat and they were only kept in the game through the goal-kicking of Frans Steyn.
The Sharks' most comfortable period in the lineout came in the final 15 minutes when Matfield was on the sidelines
Matfield’s experience has been invaluable in the improvement of the Bulls in the past month. He adds immense value to the Bulls. His leadership is also obvious and he is starting to strut to the lineout like the Matfield of old.
He was calm. He was composed and mostly he caused chaos in the minds of the opposition hooker. It is great to have him back and it will be even better when he is wearing green and gold again.
The Sharks, in the bonus-point win against the Bulls in Durban in the season’s opening game, had an advantage in the lineout, had the imposing lock Pieter-Steph du Toit as a ‘go to’ man and had no difficulty securing first-phase ball. The quality of the ball in Durban was significantly better than what was on offer in Pretoria.
The Bulls deserved the win because of their intensity and mongrel in the contact situation. They physically were the stronger in what was one heck of an arm wrestle.
Steyn is playing as well as he has ever played. I’d say he is playing the best rugby of his career because of the maturity in his game.
Wow, he is on fire.
He is taking ownership of everything he does. He is a leader in this team and a veteran in his approach. Steyn won a World Cup as a 20-year-old and even though he is still only 26 he is showing the maturity and attitude of one much older in playing years.
It’s a joy to watch him play. His passion is what you expect of an X-factor player, but not always what one gets from such gifted players.
He so nearly won the match for the Sharks with a late drop goal and it isn’t often that the Man of the Match award goes to a player on the losing side.
Steyn and Matfield were not in Meyer’s Bok squad last November. Both, if they are not injured, will be in the Bok squad in June. It makes for a more potent Bok unit having two players of such pedigree available and in form.
Steyn was a class apart among the backs on display at Loftus and those with an appreciation for the nuances of the game will know the exact value of Matfield’s contribution.
Photo: Anne Laing/HSM Images