The 37-year-old Matfield is fresh off a three-week knee injury lay-off and his presence on the field will bring about calm and at the same time experience that could help the Bulls reverse the result of their last outing against the Lions three weeks ago in Johannesburg.
Matfield’s return could not have come at a better time for the Bulls as they seek to make amends for their defeat this past weekend at the hands of the Stormers in Cape Town which saw them also relinquish their standing at the top of the South African conference.
But what will be even more significant for the Bulls about having Matfield back on the field is that it comes just in time before they board the flight to New Zealand to embark on a four-match tour that will go a long way in determining their fate in the competition.
Bulls coach Frans Ludeke will probably make the decision, on whether to start with Matfield or play him off the bench, after today’s training. But either way it will be vital for Matfield to get some mileage into his legs and re-establish his formidable partnership with Springbok Flip van der Merwe in the second row.
Ludeke will also seriously ponder his choices in the front-row this week, especially with his props.
In the aftermath of the Stormers game it has become clear that without Trevor Nyakane in the starting line-up the Bulls are on a hiding to nothing in the scrums and that Dean Greyling needs to seriously work on his technique.
Nyakane will in all likelihood be recalled to the starting line-up but the question remains in what role as he has enhanced his reputation since his accidental move from loosehead to tighthead prop.
However, it could be wise for Ludeke to revert Nyakane back to loosehead and continue with Marcel van der Merwe at tighthead while Adriaan Strauss is the obvious starting hooker as this is widely seen as the strongest frontrow that the Bulls can put out.
Ludeke is also likely to make some minor changes in the backrow with Lappies Labuschagne and Arno Botha strong contenders to start against the Lions.
The Bulls have also received a timely boost for their backline with news that Jan Serfontein is fit and should be available for selection after being a late withdrawal on Saturday morning ahead of the Stormers game because of a recurring hip flexor injury.
While Serfontein is an important cog in the Bulls machinery, it has been his successor in the No12 jersey Burger Odendaal that has impressed in his absence.
Odendaal’s ascension into Super Rugby has been meteoric having made his debut against the Crusaders after Serfontein was ruled out of the match at the eleventh hour.
Odendaal went on to put in credible performances after that and when thrown in the deep end again on Saturday, having flown into Cape Town on match day, the abrasive inside centre flourished under the pressure of the top-of-the-table clash.
With Serfontein struggling to shake off his hip flexor injury it might be advisable for the Bulls to give him another week of rest and make sure he is fit for the tour. - The Star
Original source: Matfield boost for Bulls