According to Blue Bulls president Willem Strauss, Victor Matfield weighed up the pros and cons and decided that it wasn’t worth leaving a cushy broadcast job to face the daily gauntlet of coaching professional rugby in South Africa.
“If I can summarise… what Victor informed me is that what it comes down to is the insecurity of being a coach,” Strauss told reporters at Loftus Versfeld on Tuesday. “It is a high-risk environment, we all know that.”
From the outset, Matfield appeared to be the fan-favourite on a shortlist with Deon Davids and Pote Human to replace John Mitchell as head coach of the Bulls.
The most capped Springbok, Matfield’s credentials as a lineout guru remain unrivalled. But Jake White highlighted a lack of coaching experience as an obvious reason not to fast-track Matfield straight into the role of a Super Rugby head coach, and it seems that Matfield eventually came round to the logic behind that argument.
Another possible reason for Matfield getting cold feet was the appointment of Alan Zondagh as the Bulls director of rugby. Zondagh has almost 40 years of coaching experience, most recently reviving Boland before excessive interference from elected officials led to his resignation.
However, Zondagh and Matfield have opposing views on what it takes to win matches, and where the former’s expansive ideals are based mostly on coaching at the dawn of professionalism, and in giving underdogs a fighting chance, Matfield had a leading role between 2004 and 2009 in the installation of a low-risk blueprint that led to three Super Rugby titles, two Tri-Nations championships, a series victory against the British Lions and a World Cup winners medal.
This may have been the straw that broke the camel’s back as, faced with the prospect of risking his legacy as a Bulls legend while juggling the pressures of his first season as a Super Rugby head coach in the media spotlight, Matfield also had to consider reporting to a director of rugby who has a different outlook on the game.
“You can ask why Victor went through the whole process, but it is tough to be a coach,” said Strauss after confirming that Matfield had pulled out and Human would take over as the Bulls coach with just nine weeks to go before the Bulls host the Stormers in February.
“Pote has proved himself at every level and has a track record that speaks for itself. We are privileged to have men of his calibre within our system, that can step up into this role. He has the full support of everybody at Loftus.”
— Staff Writer