CAPE TOWN, May 30 (Reuters) - Veteran South African lock Victor Matfield could complete a remarkable return to the game after two years in retirement by being named Springbok captain for three tests next month.
Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer will name a temporary captain in place of the injured Jean de Villiers next week with the 37-year-old Matfield, who has been highly influential for the Bulls in Super Rugby this season, one of the favourites.
Hooker Bismark du Plessis, who has led the Sharks to the top of the Super Rugby standings, is a more popular choice but Matfield’s close relationship with the coach and his previous experience in the job might weigh in his favour.
Meyer has been mulling over options following the confirmation that De Villiers will not be fit to return before August but the prestige of the role and a suitable candidate for the position has taken a prominent place in South African sports pages over the last days.
De Villiers has emerged as a distinguished leader and will be a hard act to fill in for.
“I don’t want to change too much as Jean will be back and will be my captain for the rest of the year,” Meyer said this week at the three-day Springbok training camp in Durban.
“We have the culture right, and Jean as leader is an intrinsic part of that.”
Meyer spent the last two years cajoling Matfield, who quit after the 2011 World Cup, out of retirement and the powerful lock returned this year on a two-year contract with the Bulls.
“What I have to decide now is whether I look to the future in appointing the interim captain, which means I look at what comes after next year’s World Cup, when it is likely that Jean will have retired,” Meyer said.
“Or do I go for the guys who have been there before as Bok captain and thus I go for stability?”
Meyer has mentioned several candidates, including Du Plessis and fellow hooker Adriaan Strauss before the Cheetahs captain was handed a three-week suspension that will keep him out of the tests.
“Schalk Burger has been a captain that has impressed me in the past, and I have been impressed with Duane Vermeulen when he has led the Stormers in a few games this season,” Meyer said.
“So there are seven or eight players who can probably do the job. I also want to speak to the senior players and possibly some of the management guys too.”
The new captain will not be named on Saturday when Meyer announces his squad for the two internationals against Wales and one against Scotland.
The captaincy is decision likely to be finalised next Wednesday when Meyer names the starting line-up for a warm-up game against a World XV in Cape Town next weekend.
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