Fri, Jun 22, 2007 - Page 22 News List

'Bok skipper signs for Toulon

TRIO OF CAPTAINSVictor Matfield, who on Wednesday was announced as South Africa's 52nd Test captain, will join former Australia and New Zealand skippers at Toulon


South Africa's Victor Matfield, top left, tackles Australia's Rocky Elsom, right, at Newlands stadium in Cape Town, South Africa, last Saturday.

Photo: AP

Stand-in Springbok skipper Victor Matfield is to play for French second division side Toulon next season, L'Equipe sports daily reported yesterday.

The 30-year-old lock will join the Mediterranean coast side on a one-year contract after the World Cup which takes place in France finishing on Oct. 20.

He is the latest addition to the Toulon line-up following the naming of former All Black captain Tana Umaga as general manager.

Toulon, who are desperate to grab promotion to the top flight in France and join the elite of European rugby, have already acquired the services of two southern hemisphere veterans, Australian scrum-half George Gregan and New Zealand flyhalf Andrew Mehrtens for next season.

Matfield has just been named as the South African captain for the Tri-Nations game against New Zealand on Saturday, the first lock forward in 42 years to captain the Springboks.

His promotion follows his captaincy of the Northern Bulls to the Super-14 title last month. He has been capped 57 times for his country and is widely regarded as the best lock forward in the world.

The 30-year-old is a definite starter in the team and enjoys the respect of all his teammates. He is in a class of his own as a lineout specialist, often being named in rugby pundits' world dream teams.

His 2,01m frame and 115kg allow him to not only dominate in the lineouts, but to roam the field as an extra loose forward.

He has been described by those who have come up against him on the rugby fields of the world as an athlete with skills of the highest caliber, but lacking nothing in the physicality department.

The 'Bok second-rower, who'll become his country's 52nd Test captain, has perfected the art of stealing opposition lineout ball, while effortlessly securing his own.

It isn't simply natural talent though that has made him one of the world's best. He is known for his meticulous pre-match preparation and apparently spends hours studying the opposition.

Born in the northern South African town of Pietersburg (now known as Polokwane) - the same place that double US Open golf champion Retief Goosen hails from - Matfield was a keen cricketer in his youth, but injury halted his progression in the sport in his teenage years.

Turning his attention to rugby, Matfield played for the South African under-21 team in 1997 and 1998, before making his senior provincial debut for Griqualand West in 1999. He also debuted for the Golden Cats in that year's Super 12 competition.

A year later he joined the Blue Bulls and in 2001 made his Springbok debut against Italy. In 2005 he was shortlisted for International Rugby Board World Player of the Year.

To date he has won three Currie Cup titles and shared a fourth.

Matfield's captaincy stood out in the Super 14 final when, with only two minutes remaining and his side trailing the Coastal Sharks, he got the best out of his players; Bryan Habana's converted try sealing a one-point win.

"Victor is a great captain who knows when to make the right decisions," Bulls coach Heyneke Meyer said after the final.

"I don't think he gets enough credit for his inspirational captaincy. What distinguishes him from other captains is that only the best will do for him," Meyer said.

Matfield has surprisingly yet to win the coveted SA Rugby Player of the Year award, but a World Cup winner's medal in October would secure him just about everything else there is to play for in South African rugby.

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