The greatest: Number five lock

Date published: October 28 2009

In the closest run contest so far, Victor Matfield was given the nod for your second row, beating John Eales by a little more than 100 votes.

In the closest run contest so far, Victor Matfield was given the nod for your second row, beating John Eales by a little more than 100 votes.

We briefly considered having a single poll for both second row positions, but that just wouldn't work in the modern game. Matfield's partnership with Bakkies Botha at the Bulls and for South Africa is the perfect example of how two very different players, who perform very different roles, combine to form a modern day second row.

Matfield received 45 per cent of your votes compared to Eales' 42 per cent.

A year or two ago it would have been unthinkable to pick a “Greatest Pro Team” without Eales, but, as your votes have shown, Matfield has set a new benchmark for line-out play, both on attack and defence.

What has made Matfield the best in the business is not just his superb athletic ability, but his outstanding rugby brain. Over the past year, Springbok coach Peter de Villiers and his Tri-Nations counterparts Graham Henry and Robbie Deans have all hailed Matfield for being a masterful student of the line-out tactics.

Standing 2.00m tall and weighing 110kg, Matfield has won just about everything there is to win in the Southern Hemisphere.

A winners medal at the 2007 World Cup was made even more special when he was named the IRB player of the tournament. A stellar year in 2009 saw him raise a Super 14 trophy for the second time as skipper of the Bulls before going on to win the Tri-Nations as vice-captain of the Springboks.

The year is not yet over and a third Currie Cup success is on the cards at Saturday's final at Loftus Versfeld to add to his winners medals from 2002 and 2004.

A brief spell playing club rugby in France after the 2007 World Cup saw him join forces with Tana Umaga to win promotion to the Top 14 from the ProD2 for Toulon.

Matfield made his Springbok debut against Italy in June 2001 and has gone on to earn 89 caps for his country including a very memorable game in 2008 when he captained South Africa to their first ever win at Carisbrook, ending the All Blacks' five-year unbeaten record on home soil.

It's hard to disassociate Matfield from Botha as the two have formed such a formidable partnership over the years.

Beyond starting their 50th Test together in the second row against Australia at Newlands earlier this year, the pair got married on the same day and their first children were born not far apart. In Matfield's own words, they'll probably “also retire from rugby together one day.”

Who should be Matfield's partner in the second row in your Greatest Team of the Pro Era? Cast your votes on the poll on the front pager of Planet Rugby – you've got 48 hours!