Big Vic's reunion: From Kimberley to Ellis Park

Thu, 10 Aug 2017 16:17

REACTION: Back in 1999 they were just two nondescript figures at lowly Griquas. Almost 20 years later Victor Matfield and Zacharia Francois de Bruin reunited at Ellis Park - both very successful and high profile figures.

The World Cup-winning Springbok, Matfield, was unveiled as the Golden Lions' new forwards coach.

Matfield will link up with newly the appointed Lions head coach, De Bruin, who played a crucial role in his development at the start of a stellar and record-breaking career.

A big turning point in Matfield's career came when he decided to leave the Blue Bulls for the Griquas in 1999, where he was selected to represent the Cats in the Super 12 that year.

Matfield went on to earn a record 127 Test caps for his country, won the World Cup in 2007 and collected three Super Rugby titles (2007, 2009 and 2010) and a handful of Currie Cup titles along the way.

De Bruin, after a five-year stint in Kimberley, returned to Durban. However, it was not until he took up the role as attack coach at the Lions that he truly came into his own - eventually earning himself the job as head coach, after the departure of Johan Ackermann to Gloucester in England.

Matfield, when unveiled as the Lions' new forwards coach, recalled the impact which De Bruin had on his career.

"It's Déjà vu," Matfield told a media briefing at Ellis Park.

"I still remember, as a 21-year old, getting the call from Swys [De Bruin] to join him at Griquas and the respect I had for him back then," Matfield added.

"That is where I learnt a lot of my rugby as a player.

"It turned out pretty good, so hopefully it can be the same for my coaching career."
The 40-year-old former Bok lock added that when the opportunity came to reunite with his former mentor he could not turn down the offer.

"When he called me again and said: 'Will you have a look at joining us [at the Golden Lions]?', it just felt right.

"The culture at the Lions is fantastic. It is really healthy. They respect each other.

"I am here to see what they do and hopefully I can add a bit of my flavour to it."

Matfield has been contracted to the Lions on a consultancy basis.

He still has a commitment with Wildswinkel, where he has been involved for the last two years - while he is also a TV analyst.

However, he will be coaching the forwards twice a week and he will be present at all the Golden Lions Currie Cup matches.

"It is not full time, but I'm here enough to do my job," explained Matfield.

The Lions' new management team face their first challenge when their side takes on the Sharks in a round five Currie Cup clash at Ellis Park in Johannesburg on Saturday.

The Lions played a fast paced running game under former coach Johan Ackermann, which delivered them the 2015 Currie Cup trophy and back to back Super Rugby Final appearances in 2016 and 2017.

With all the changes to the management team, De Bruin ensured Lions supporters that the side will not change the foundations of their game which has brought them much success over the past few seasons.

"It will be foolish now to break this whole house down, maybe just add a tint on one of the windows," explained De Bruin.

The Golden Lions currently sit in fifth position on the Currie Cup table, with eight points from three matches played, which includes one win and two defeats.

By Josh Isaacson, at Ellis Park

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Sat, 24 March 2018
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Blues v Sharks 06h35 Eden Park
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Bulls v Stormers 15h15 Loftus Versfeld
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Team P W D L Pts
Sharks 12 10 0 2 47
Western Province 12 7 0 5 37
Golden Lions 12 6 0 6 35
Blue Bulls 12 5 0 7 32
Free State Cheetahs 12 6 0 6 31
Pumas 12 4 0 8 27
Griquas 12 4 0 8 26