Springbok boss Heyneke Meyer has heaped the evergreen Victor Matfield with praise, saying there is more to come from the veteran.
Springbok boss Heyneke Meyer has showered praise upon the evergreen Victor Matfield, whose comeback has proved a roaring success.
Aged 37, and playing his record-breaking 112th Test in the green and gold against Wales on Saturday, Matfield's return to the game first with the Bulls, then the Boks, has silenced critics, as the veteran has rediscovered some of his best form.
“Victor has made a huge improvement since his first game back at Super Rugby level and is now the Victor of old again,” said Meyer.
“He was brilliant last week, and this is a great way to honour him. It is all about the team for Victor, and not about records, but although the players are always going out to play for the country, and not an individual, I believe they will be really motivated to do well for him on Saturday. He has a knack of getting the best out of the team.
“Everyone knows about his lineout work, but what I don't think a lot of people realise is how important his contribution is when fielding the kick-offs. That was an area where New Zealand were better than us last year, but as we saw this past week, Victor is able to cover a big area in dealing with the kick-offs.
“He puts in a lot of tackles as well, and is just an unbelievable leader who leads by example both on and off the field.”
Indeed, Meyer believes his stand-in skipper can get better still.
“I think Victor can get better,” acknowledged Meyer.
“He is the type of player who once he has made the step up to the level he is now, can only get better. And some quality players just shine like diamonds when they are playing in big matches against top opposition.
“I think he will get steadily better and I expect that he will reach his peak this year when we play against New Zealand and Australia in the Rugby Championship.
“I said to Victor that his comeback musn't be about records or anything like that. I wanted him to help out by coming off the bench, and now he is playing 80 minutes and is captain.
“I am very proud of what he has achieved and think it is remarkable that he can come back so well after two years in retirement. It is a storybook ending for him, although hopefully it isn't the end because I expect a lot more from him.”