Why did Matfield get cold feet?

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

- All Out Rugby Staff Writer

Let's chat

  • Lunga

    I think jake white is spot on ,when he said lack of coaching experience is the reason Victor decline to be a coach of the Blue Bulls,insecurity i don’t think is the reason,he enjoy the aircon of supersport analyses the game predict the score,he is afraid to face melting part of the game

    • Andrew Fredericks

      I don’t think that would have been a problem because everyone has to start somewhere even Jake White was not born a coach. I still think that if the package for the position was as good as we say Victor would not think twice irrespective of the challenges because he was coach by many coaches before you won’t tell me that he did not learn anything from them? For me Victor would have been the better option as coach. What makes Jake’s opinion on this position so valuable why not all the other coaches that coach Victor maybe he was and are not a Victor fan. Pote must just remember that he was the second choice and maybe after a year Alan Zondagh will eventually take over hence he had such a good track record. But is just my opinion or concern. Good luck Pote we will support you all the way. Bulls forever win or lose.

      • nezo

        am with you Mr Andrew.

  • Dean

    I find it strange that they would appoint Matfield, who barely has any top level coaching experience as a head coach ahead of Pote Human. Pote has way more experience and he was assistant to Heyneke when they won Super Rugby. He’s coached on every level in SA and overseas experience in Japan. Surely, it would have made more sense to have Matfield and/or Fourie du Preez as consultants or assistants to Pote.

    • nezo

      sometimes its not about experience my man. some man can learn on the job and master it. besides Matfield has played in a successful generation. he has been coached. he was the best in lineouts not because he just jumped but because he did proper research of his opponents.

      sometimes you just need to snatch some man while they are available. with or without experience. because someone might take them while you wasting time.

      i am more disappointed in finding out that he did not have the courage to face the media and South African people. he had my vote but next time i wont waste my time on him.

      • Whinger

        As a private person, who was not elected to any position and is not remunerated by the taxpayer or even a sporting body, I don’t think he has any obligation to “face the nation” to explain anything. I personally think that he should never have been considered for the job. He simply does not have the experience. However, this idea that for some reason or another the public owns him and that he owes them an explanation, is ludicrous.

        • nezo

          On Private Person comment:

          we love Matfield. when he said he was availing himself that immediately involved us. our hearts were involved because we suddenly had hope for the Bulls. the bulls are a company owned by a millions of Hearts. just like he explained to the top people who wasted their time in considering him and rejecting others. so he needs to apologize to us too.

          some man have little influence so their decisions may not affect a lot of people but some man like Matfield, their actions affect a whole lot of people. i hope that makes sense Mr Whinger

        • nezo

          but Mr Whinger you have to remember that Jake White never coached in currie cup nor on Super Rugby before he coached the Springboks. Brian Habana only had a few Currie Cup matches before he took over the World in Springbok Rugby. so did the new golden boy Aphiwe Dyantyi.

          what i am saying is that experience is not always necessary. vision is the one necessary. if Matfield was able to convince the interview panel better than the experience coaches. then surely that is a sign that he would be able to convince his players to buy into his Vision aswel better than the experience coaches.

          and remember experience is just that. if your experience is 10 years of winning nothing. that is propably what you will bring to any other coaching job. for example. Jake won the World Cup for under 21. then He won the Main World cup.

  • Barry

    Naas Botha is StILL there, so Super Sport certainly offers job security! Under current circumstances, no race.

    Does not leave one with a comfortable feeling for SR 2019:
    Bulls – Human strikes as a fatherly like support kind of guy. Perhaps perspective is off the mark?

    Sharks – Du Preez Senior continues to erraticate assistants with any form. Dick Muir and Du Preez inevitably bumped heads – Muir created 7 Springboks from none in 2018. Talk about shooting yourself in the foot!

    Fleck is working on his disclaimer opening speech at the moment and with the tiff he had with his back line coach, expect more of the same!

    Lions- signs are showing a decline from their glory of past three years. Recent losses to Sharks – last three outings and a firm thumping from the Stormers in CC. Not looking great.

    An interesting year ahead!

    • John Comyn

      I think Fleck deserves another season. He’s had dreadful luck throughout his tenure with injuries. I don’t think he has ever put his best side on the field. Last year I think he had 8 front-line players out when they toured down under. He basically toured with a bunch of 19 and 20 year olds. He has some excellent youngsters at his disposal. A lot of them are now starting to mature. Hopefully he can keep Etzebeth & PSDT on the park. I’m not trying to cry anyone a river here but I think this could be The Stormers year! I think The Lions will go into hibernation for another 20 years. I’m not sure if Hermie will still be around I doubt I will!

      • nezo

        i am a stormers supporter my man but Fleck does not deserve another chance. great coaches have things working for them. even things they cannot control. when things are not working for them. they still produce the results. or loose just for a moment. no matter how many years you give to some people they still won’t make it. atlist you must see the vision growing. i see none at the moment.

        Fleck is not a pioneer. he doesn’t stand out. i don’t even know what he stands for in terms of game plan. great coaches have these qualities. they are stubborn too because they believe their vision and plan will work. i have not seen any of those from Fleck.

        oh the last one. great coaches dominate the news. example Jake, Erasmus, Eddie etc journalist love to follow such man because they have a stubborn and different vision.

        • John Comyn

          I have to disagree with you! You don’t need to be outspoken or ostentatious in any way to be a good coach. Joe Schmidt and Steve Hansen (1& 2 in the world) don’t dominate the news btw nor does Rassie. Is Rassie a poor coach given he has a win record of 50%? The WP board have backed Fleck. The vision since Fleck started, together with the coaching team and director of rugby has always been to make a push to win the competition in their 3rd year. Go back and check if you do not believe me. This year we have the players and the depth to do well providing we have a little luck in terms of keeping the players fit and on the park

          • nezo

            Just the three guys you mentioned are the ones dominating the news. Erasmus, Joe Schmidt and Steve Hansen.

            what i meant about dominating the news is this. the way you carry yourself and respond at press conferences influence and dominate the Journalist to your favour even if at times they will disagree with you. also you start influence the majority of the public. they too start seeing things your way. for example Erasmus only has a 50% win rate yet Many journalist and the public at large are still backing him. how come? its what he says and the way he says it that is influencing everyone to start speaking about him with a salt of hope. that is because the man has a vision and he is stubborn about it. whether we agree with it or not.

            you don’t need to be outspoken or ostentatious to dominate the News. the Journalist and the public must just be drunk with your Aura. and shame i don’t feel that with Fleck at all.

        • Herman Schroder?

          Nezo. Totally agree except Erasmus is stubborn in the wrong way. His dom krag vision is just plain stupid. Cheers.

          • nezo

            Agree Mr Herman. but now listening to him on that interview he did recently. i found out why he is playing this way. He just wants to win the World Cup in these less than 2 years he has of coaching the Boks before he steps down. i thought he was building a team that he will coach for 6 years. He deceived us.

            For a world cup then yes dom krag will still work. we have proven that it can win world cups. but for our Long term goals then we need a coach that will take us out of this Kick and chase game.

      • Barry

        I wish Fleck and crew well, BUT sorry he is a bit of a whingger! The Lions for example had all of Whitely, Marx, Ross Cronge, Skosan, Combrink and Mapoe our for big portions of their campaign but they didn’t use that as an excuse. They just got on with it and eventually made the play offs – and I’m not a Lions supporter!

        • Herman Schroder?

          Thumbs up Sir. Cheers.

        • nezo

          well said Mr Barry.

    • Chris Mouton

      You raise some valid points. It’s going to be interesting indeed.

    • SweetAz

      Hope you have an umbrella for the shitstorm, -how dare you say anything about the only franchise in SA that can play rugby?

      • Herman Schroder?

        Many a true word spoken in jest, SweetAz. Cheers.

  • John Comyn

    Pote is a salt of the earth type guy and a rugby man through and through. He played for EP back in the day when I was playing club rugby in PE. He was a brutal player on the field but an excellent bloke off the field. I just don’t think he has done enough at The Bulls to suggest he can take them back to their glory days. Basically nice guys come 2nd. I thought Rassie was going to decide who coaches the Bulls? Victor has always put his interests 1st contrary to popular belief. If it’s job security he is looking for, which clearly it is, then he should not have put his name in the hat. I say this because I’m sure the Bulls job pays a hell of a lot more than the broadcast job does. They should have tried getting Jake there. I’m also guessing they would have tried Fourie Du Preez.

    • Barry

      Yes John agreed. The biggest missing factor amongst our Senior National coaches is their dynamism and level of strategic thinking. That is where the likes of Mallett, White and Erasmus are light years ahead of the rest. They try to out smart their opposition whilst others just try to keep up! I think the Bulls have a good rugby man, but they are light on strategy. Perhaps Zondagh will play a role, though he is currently employed as a skills coach at the Sharks! I wish them luck!

      • Herman Schroder?

        Barry, Erasmus should never be mentioned in the same breath as Mallett and White. The records show Erasmus was outsmarted more times than he outsmarted anyone else this season, ending in the festival Baa Baa’s game where the Boks were woeful in trying to play expansively. Accolades must be earned imo. Cheers.

    • nezo

      they should really bring back jake. although the game will be boring but one thing for sure. he will make them win.

  • Chris Mouton

    Why did the Bulls not court Dawie Theron? As far as I know he’s not coaching any major teams at the moment and he surely has what it takes winning the Junior World Cup in 2012 and all. For the life of me I don’t understand the lack of continuity and leadership from SA Rugby. Use the bottom-up approach. If you have great school coaches, make them varsity coaches. Great varsity coaches to Junior Springboks. Junior Springboks to Super Rugby and Super Rugby to National Coach. Moving through those ranks will grant great insight and experience. Am I too logical with this?

    • Barry

      Agreed Chris some serious question marks. I just wonder how settled the administration is at the Bulls? Jimmy Stonehouse was one of the forerunners, but he got so frustrated with the protracted process that he pulled the rug!

    • nezo

      well said Mr Chris. there is something wrong there on top

  • John Comyn

    They may have approached Theron. Others I would have thought they might try would be Dobson, Jake White and maybe Fourie Du Preez.

    • Matt

      They did try Fourie du Preez. He said no because he believes the Bulls franchise is a poisoned chalice at the moment and that management do not appear prepared to acknowledge what is required to get the Bulls back to winning.

      I’m thinking ol Victor had a good chat filled with common sense with his mate Du Preez and got his eyes opened that he was heading for a hiding-to-nothing.

      The boardroom is where the problems are at the Bulls, and no amount of changing coaches or directors is gonna change it.

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