Rassie’s era brings new dawn, says Matfield
● A series victory over England is only the beginning of what Victor Matfield believes is a Springbok squad with enough depth in talent to take it through the next two Rugby World Cups and towards becoming a force in world rugby again.
Matfield — who this week took part in the Vodacom Red Golf Tour where he joined fellow former Springbok AJ Venter, other rugby players and competition winners playing golf at Leopard Creek and Blair Atholl — said he is as excited about this new era in the Springboks as most of the rugby-loving country at the moment.
“I think what Rassie and his assistant Jacques (Nienaber) have done with the team in such a short time is unbelievable. I’m really looking forward to the next two years, and then after the World Cup when he’s got more time I think this is going to become a great Springbok team. When you look at this group of players most of them can play two World Cups. So for the next five to six years we can really establish something strong with this group. And don’t forget that Eben (Etzebeth) and Lood (De Jager) must still come back as well.”
Matfield said he believes the players are feeding off Erasmus’s confidence in his own
I think this is going to become a great Springbok team Victor Matfield Former Bok captain
process. “Rassie believes in himself. There are a lot of coaches who know the game but don’t really believe in themselves. He’ll listen to everybody, but he’ll still do what he thinks is right. You can just see on the field the way the guys are playing, if they’re 10 or 20 points behind, they just still keep doing what they’re doing because they believe in what Rassie is doing.”
Siya Kolisi’s captaincy has also impressed Matfield. “Siya looks very calm as a captain. He’s doing the right thing by surrounding himself with other leaders. I could see he used Duane Vermeulen a lot in the first two tests, and Handré Pollard. As a captain, if you have a strong group of players around you, you need to use them. John Smit did it. He relied on a few of us to be his right-hand men. But I think what his captaincy means for the country is even bigger. It’s unbelievable that rugby can unite people like that.
“I’ve also been impressed with RG Snyman. I think he’s going to be amazing. And Sibusiso Nkosi has impressed me a lot. I wasn’t sure he was ready for Springbok rugby, but he looked very calm and collected in both tests. He did a lot of small things right and made good decisions. And I’m also happy that Pollard has shown he’s the No 1 flyhalf in South Africa.”
Venter, who played with and was coached by Erasmus, says it’s the man’s people skills that have most impressed him. “Rassie is a man who can handle players. You want a coach that has the intellect and is a thinker, but who is also a people’s person. Rassie is one of those coaches who can have 23 players happy in a team.”