Victor Matfield changes tune on Springboks playing abroad despite missing the ‘old Super Rugby days’

Colin Newboult
Springboks legend Victor Matfield at the World Rugby awards in 2023.

Springboks legend Victor Matfield at the World Rugby awards in 2023.

Victor Matfield believes that South Africa are benefiting from their switch to the northern hemisphere, although the Springboks legend still yearns for the days when they were playing in Super Rugby.

The 47-year-old has now been converted by the move to the United Rugby Championship (URC) and also noted that the exodus of their best players has actually aided the national team’s development.

Fiscal issues have resulted in some of their greats departing overseas but, despite it adding to the challenges for head coach Rassie Erasmus, the Boks great believes that it has plenty of positives.

‘Bigger player pool’

“It’s (the move north) definitely helping a little bit,” Matfield told The Breakdown.

“In the beginning I was against all our Springboks playing outside of South Africa. Especially if we played in Super Rugby, we wouldn’t be able to compete without our Springboks.

“At this stage, our players are playing all around the world getting a lot of IP (intellectual property) from a lot of different places.

“I think we’re developing more and more players through the URC, so our player pool is getting bigger at this stage.”

Brodie Retallick: ‘My arms look like toothpicks and Eben Etzebeth’s are like cannons’

After the advent of professionalism, the big southern hemisphere trio joined forces to create Super Rugby.

The Bulls, Lions, Stormers and Sharks eventually became key parts of the tournament, but they were ousted after Covid struck, leaving New Zealand and Australia to go it alone.

They duly aligned themselves with the north as those four franchises signed up to the PRO14 to create the URC.

Titles and finals

It has certainly aided South African rugby, who defended their Rugby World Cup title in 2023 following a 12-11 triumph over the All Blacks.

South Africa has also been represented in all three URC finals, with the Stormers featuring in 2022 and 2023 before the Bulls reached the showpiece event last month.

However, despite all that success, especially over recent years, and the overseas players learning various different playing styles, Matfield still looks back fondly at the time they were in Super Rugby.

“Those Springboks guys come back from wherever they’ve played, bring something back to South African rugby. At this stage, it’s really working for us. Financially, it looks better as well,” he added.

“But for me I still miss the old Super Rugby days, I still think that was the best competition – the old Super 12 – where it was the best players in the world playing each other week in week out.”

READ MORE: Springboks accused of ‘abusing rugby traditions’ as Rassie Erasmus ‘discriminates against backs