Victor Matfield hits back at Sir John Kirwan’s claim that the Springboks are ‘not the future’ of rugby

Colin Newboult
Victor Matfield and Sir John Kirwan, legendary players for the Springboks and All Blacks respectively.

Victor Matfield and Sir John Kirwan, legendary players for the Springboks and All Blacks respectively.

Victor Matfield has responded to Sir John Kirwan’s claim that the Springboks will be hampered by World Rugby’s law amendments.

The All Blacks legend stated that while South Africa were a great Rugby World Cup team, their playing style was “not the future of our game.”

Stereotypically, the Boks are renowned for their set-piece and physicality, two things that tend to pay dividends when the global tournament comes around.

Equally, their sole focus is always on the next World Cup, with Rassie Erasmus using the four-year cycle to build towards that.

Issues between World Cups

That resulted in some mediocre results and performances between 2019 and 2023, and Kirwan suggested that could happen again heading towards 2027.

The 59-year-old pointed to the law updates, one of which will prevent sides from taking a scrum when a free-kick has been awarded.

With the Springboks so strong up front, that has led to concerns it will depower the scrum, but Matfield disagrees that it will harm one of their primary weapons.

“I don’t think it (the new laws) scare us. If you look at the rules, there are only two that will have a big impact. One is that you can’t go for a scrum off a free-kick and that happens only once, maybe twice, a game,” he told The Breakdown.

“If you’ve got big, strong ball carriers that can get you over the advantage line [like the Boks], you can use that as well [from a free-kick].

“I don’t think the laws will make a big difference. I saw it again, South African fans love a big maul, a big scrum, it was the biggest cheer when we got that penalty try from the scrum.

“That’s the style we like to play, that’s our DNA and I don’t think we will go away from that.”

All Blacks legends in heated exchange as Sir John Kirwan claims Springboks style ‘not the future’ of rugby

Another amendment has seen World Rugby remove the ‘Dupont law’ loophole, with players who are in front of the kicker now only allowed to move once they have been put onside by a team-mate.

“We’re not a team that really kicks long, we kick mostly contestables. I think the whole thing with the guys that can’t advance [from a kick] doesn’t really play that big a part in South African rugby,” Matfield added.

“If you look at the French, they like to have a long kicking game, those big forwards waiting in the midfield, whereas we go more for the contestable. We like that and we want to play off those turnovers.”

Ireland clash

The Springboks played their second game since becoming world champions for a fourth time on Saturday and interestingly there was a slight change in their style.

Erasmus has brought highly rated New Zealander Tony Brown in as attack coach and they certainly looked to play more expansively against Ireland.

Kurt-Lee Arendse’s first try, in particular, was superbly created as the Boks moved the ball to the wider channels with pace and tempo.

As a result, Matfield jokingly said to Kirwan, who was on The Breakdown panel: “Hopefully, John enjoyed the game a little bit more than what he said last week.”

Matfield also signed off the interview in hilarious fashion after presenter Kirstie Stanway stated: “Hopefully, you won’t have to use that boxing bag in a couple of months’ time when the All Blacks hit town.

The Springboks great responded: “I’m waiting, I’m just putting John Kirwan’s face on it… I’m going for it, a little dab Johnny!” Kirwan took it in good spirits and added: “I don’t want to get punched, I will be running a mile!”

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