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VIDEO - 'It's just unbelievable': Matfield gives his verdict on Jake White

SPOTLIGHT: Springbok legend Victor Matfield said the Bulls are starting to reap the rewards of Jake White’s planning, including the development of some future Springboks.

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The Pretoria side will enter Round 14 of the United Rugby Championship in third position in the overall standings with nine wins from their 13 games so far.

Their Champions Cup campaign ended with a 22-59 defeat to Northampton last weekend, but it’s a result that doesn’t seem to faze White too much after he fielded a team missing a number of star players

As Director of Rugby, White has been hard at work trying to build a new era of success at the Bulls and Matfield is seeing the signs that point to this.

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“Jake has probably taken a lot and learned a lot from what has been happening at Leinster,” Matfield told media on Tuesday.

“They [Leinster] probably got the best and the second-best team in the competition.

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“In the old days, you could have gotten away with 25 or 26 players and now you need almost three teams so that you can mix and match throughout the season.

“Going into that Northampton game you could see all the big names were left behind in South Africa, but when they ran onto the field I thought: ‘Wow if you look at this team, it is still a pretty good team’.

“They have created depth at the Bulls. However, I still believe you can’t go over and play Northampton and leave 14 of your top players behind.

“You can maybe leave five [behind] and mix and match the in-form senior guys with the younger guys, but I think Jake has done well.

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“I think everything is in place at the Bulls at the moment. They are building well and they are getting good players from school level.

“South African schoolboy rugby is so strong and the pipeline of young players coming through is just unbelievable.

“I think they’ve got the structures right; they’ve got things in place.

“Last year it felt like Jake was a bit scared to give the young guys an opportunity. This year he gave them opportunities and most of them came through.

“It is nice to see the young players coming through and learning from the old players.”

Some of those young players are seen by many as future Springboks and one of them is No.8 Cameron Hanekom, who has just grown with each opportunity he received.

“There is a lot of talk in South Africa about him being very close to [Bok] selection,” said Matfield.

“He is a very talented guy and explosive with a high workrate, but there are also a lot of other very good players in South Africa.

“It will be interesting. He has been to one of the camps with Rassie [Erasmus] and the coaching staff, so he must be very close.”

Matfield, who was one of the best locks ever to play the game, believes the Bulls have also unearthed another gem in the second row.

“This new kid JF [van Heerden], I think he is only 19 years old. I think he will be a Springbok,” said the 46-year-old.

“But I think the three or four guys that we’ve got at the Springboks will be there for the next two years or maybe even to the next World Cup.

“I am not sure we will replace them.

“They are still very athletic and they are still playing really well. But as you know, here in South Africa we’ve got so much talent coming through every year.”

@rugby365com

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