Matfield leads Bulls to Super Rugby win
March 23, 2014
The Sharks scored early points, but couldn't keep the resurgent Bulls down
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Legendary lock Victor Matfield marked his return as captain by leading the Bulls to a 23-19 victory over the Sharks in a captivating Super Rugby clash on Saturday. Matfield, the second most capped Springbok with 110, ended a two-year retirement to play for the Pretoria outfit in the southern hemisphere inter-provincial championship this season.
And when skipper and fellow lock Flip van der Merwe was forced to withdraw injured 48 hours before kick-off, Matfield, 36, was assigned a role he last had in the 2011 season. He was dominant at the line-outs as the home side scored two second-half tries to turn a 13-6 half-time deficit into a four-point triumph at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria.
"We succeeded by playing for each other," said Matfield, whose ultimate ambition is to be part of the Springboks 2015 Rugby World Cup squad. "Paul Willemse came in for Flip and had an awesome game. We were up against a team with many superstars and I'm delighted at the victory.
"Success was vital for us in terms of the overall standings and the South African conference because a win for the Sharks would have created a big gap between us."
The Sharks suffered their first defeat of the season, going down to the Bulls 23-19 (Australia only)
While victory lifted the Bulls to sixth place overall with 14 points, Sharks remained on top with 19 after suffering a first loss this season following four home wins. The Durban outfit were dealt two major early injury blows with half-backs Pat Lambie (fly) and Cobus Reinach (scrum) forced to retire and Tim Swiel and Charl McLeod coming on.
Sharks' defeat means there are no unbeaten teams as the defending champion Chiefs from New Zealand surrendered their perfect record after losing to Western Force in Perth six hours earlier.
"We were not thinking of the unbeaten record - we just wanted to win," stressed Sharks skipper and hooker Bismarck du Plessis. "Half-backs play major roles and losing Patrick and Cobus so early were huge setbacks, although that is no excuse for our defeat."