Matfield: ‘It’s been a great journey’

Springbok captain Victor Matfield said he felt privileged to be part of an impressive turnaround by South Africa ahead of their Bronze final against Argentina.

The 38-year-old will play his final game in the green and gold on Friday at the Olympic Stadium in London.

"I must say there hasn’t been a lot of emotions about myself. The second time [you retire] is a bit easier," he laughed.

"I came back out of retirement to hopefully help this team win the World Cup. Unfortunately we didn’t do it, we came very close.

"After the Japan game something special happened to this team and it's been an unbelievable privilege to be a part of that. Tomorrow we can hopefully end on a high and do something special for this team and for the country.

"Afterwards I'll reflect back and probably say that it was a good innings, that I enjoyed it and it was a great journey. The last two years I’ve got to know a few guys a bit better, made some friends and had some special times."

Addressing his last two years with the Springboks since coming out of his first retirement, Matfield picked out two special highlights in particular.

"It was difficult after the game last Saturday. I said that if I made the World Cup team then I'd tell myself well done, it was worth coming back, and if we’d won it would have been unbelievable," Matfield added.

"I also said it doesn't matter what my role would have been, whether starting or helping a guy like Lood [de Jager] or Pieter-Steph [du Toit] the young guys, I know my role could be any of those.

"It’s still difficult to talk about, still emotional, but I’ve enjoyed the two years and every moment in the green and gold. In terms of special memories there have been been a few; captaining the side against Wales in South Africa when I came back, and also being involved in the one game when we beat New Zealand at Ellis Park was very special."

Were it not for the All Blacks' second-half comeback then South Africa would be in the final, with Matfield adding that they were a "very special" group.

"They’re a great team at the moment that knows how to win close games," he said.

"Every time this team has played New Zealand in the last four years we could have won, but unfortunately they finished them off. It's difficult to say why, if we knew we’d have probably beaten them more, but you have to be on top of your game. They’re a very special team."

Closing the gap between themselves and the All Blacks is now the priority. Matfield certainly has plenty of opinions of how to make progress in that area but held his tongue for now, although his input after 127 caps and so much experience will be of great value.

"We'll almost have full centralised contracts next year and the guys' playing time needs to be managed," Matfield stated.

"If there was one area where the All Blacks have been in front of all of us it's that they get managed by the NZRU and not by their franchises. So I think that's one step in the right direction.

"I’ve got a lot of things that I think could be done differently, but this isn’t the time or place to go through that now."