Super Rugby
Victor Matfield in final running of the Bulls
Brett McKay
June 4, 2015
Victor Matfield's Super Rugby second coming could finish on Saturday © Getty Images

The remarkable playing career of Victor Matfield - the second stage of his playing career, that is - is on the downhill run. With the Bulls needing to win both of their remaining games, it occurred to ESPN that we could well be about to see Matfield's last appearances in a Bulls jersey.

The great lock and lineout general confirmed our suspicions this week.

"Yes, this will be my last Bulls tour as a player," Matfield told ESPN ahead of the Pretoria side's clash with the Rebels; the final clash of their four-match trans-Tasman tour.

"It hasn't been the best tour so far, but hopefully we can end it on a high this Saturday [against the Rebels]. "We've got two games left and have to win both, and probably get a bonus point - at least one, and maybe two - to get in there. Even then we have to wait for other results. So it's not a great position, but I think if we go out there and take the tact that there's a lot of youngsters in the team, and you've got to just show them what they can do, give them the belief. And then next year when we all come back together, we can hopefully win this competition."

But further than that, Matfield admitted that unless results go the Bulls way, his last Super Rugby game in a highly-decorated career yielding three Super Rugby titles, could be in the rugby stronghold of ... Melbourne.

Ruck'n Maul: Wishing Victor Matfield all the best

"I don't know if I will be playing at Loftus against the Cheetahs [in the last round]. This might be my last game this week; I might have to rest one more game for the Springboks, so I'll wait and see if I play that last game," Matfield said.

So there you have it, rugby fans of Melbourne. As if the much-improved performance of the Rebels in 2015 wasn't enough to head to AAMI Park for their final game of the season, you may very well be saying farewell to one of the genuine greats of the modern game.

A look on the Bulls website unearths a strange sight. Matfield doesn't appear among the player profiles, but is correctly listed as an Assistant Coach. But he's wearing a jersey in the profile pic, rather than the club-issue polo shirt of the other support staff. Matfield says juggling the dual coaching and playing roles has sometimes had its moments.

Victor Matfield is hopeful he can lead the Springboks to World Cup glory © Getty Images

"It's not always easy, in both capacities as player and coach. It keeps me busy," Matfield laughed. "I think if you choose the system that you want to play, then [being coach and player] can be easy. Even if I make a mistake myself, or I'm not working hard enough, I've got to be honest with myself, and honest with the team. Where it gets hard sometimes is if I have to run in a training session as a player, because you can't see everything and you can't always tell if everyone is in the right place. But yeah, it's not too bad."

In that sense, whenever he goes into camp with the Springboks, it's something of a refreshing time for Matfield, where he just has to worry about his role in the side, and not be so immersed in the coaching side of things.

"I'm still involved in the planning quite a bit. There will always be three or four senior players sit down with the coaches and do a bit of planning on how we want to play, what we want to do, so I'm still involved, but at least I don't have to worry about cutting the clips and putting together presentations for the players. So I can give my input without doing all the hard work."

Matfield says the comeback last season was never really on his radar. But admits the lure of another Rugby World Cup was a strong one.

"I must say I was pretty happily retired. But when Heyneke [Meyer, Springbok coach] asked me to come and meet, he believed I could still play another World Cup, I had to go and have a good think about it with my family and everything, but playing for the Springboks is always such a big honour.

"I really thought 2011 was it for me, but I kept fit, and it's nice when someone believes in you. Heyneke did believe in me, and he said, 'Listen, please come and help'. He said he couldn't promise me a starting spot, but he thinks I can bring something to the whole group with my leadership.

New Zealand's Brad Thorn touches down for a try, New Zealand v Argentina, Rugby World Cup quarter-final, Eden Park, Auckland, New Zealand, October 9, 2011
Brad Thorn was one of Matfield's great rivals © Getty Images

"I certainly hope I can play, my goal is still to start in the No.5 jersey for the Springboks. Whenever I play, I always want to be the best, but if it happens that I have to play another role, that's fine too. I've always said this comeback will be successful if I got to the World Cup and I can really help the guys, and hopefully win it."

Matfield will coach full-time next season, and having just had a birthday on this tour, he's content that 2015 will be it as a player. While he loved playing against him, Matfield says there won't be any danger of playing on into his 40s, a la his great All Blacks rival, Brad Thorn.

"We always knew what Brad brought to the game," he said. "He was a very physical guy that really got stuck in and did a lot of the hard work. He's always been in great condition, even up to last Sunday [Thorn's final game as a player, in the Barbarians' loss to England]. His workrate was still right up there. He's great player and a great bloke off the field as well; such a nice guy to spend some time with and have a chat after the game. But, no. I think he's going to tip me, I think 38 is far enough."

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd

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