Victor Matfield says that he has been surprised by the competitiveness of the Aviva Premiership.
The Springbok legend arrived at Franklin’s Gardens after the Rugby World Cup, and after experiencing Super Rugby, the Currie Cup and club rugby in France, he admits he has been somewhat taken aback by the evenness of England’s top flight.
“When I came over I must say I thought there’d be five or maybe six teams competing for those top four positions,” he says. “But it’s been very competitive. On any day, any team can beat any team. It’s hard games every week.
“[The Newcastle result was] very frustrating, especially if you look at the way we’ve played in the previous two weeks. We had just started to build some momentum but this is just a little setback and hopefully we can get back on the horse again next weekend.”
This has been shown in the tight contests that the Saints have had with the current bottom three sides in the league table, all of which were settled by just one point in the contests away from Franklin’s Gardens.
The first of these came at Sixways on opening day back in October, when a last-gasp Tom Heathcote drop goal grabbed a win for Worcester.
Matfield was still on international duty with South Africa, but he knows that this result shows that the Warriors cannot be underestimated.
“Worcester are going to be very tough again,” he comments. “They surprised us at the start of the season while I was away at the World Cup. We know it’s going to be a tough game.”
With the likes of fellow former Blue Bulls GJ Van Velze and Dewald Potgeiter heading to the Gardens on Saturday, there are plenty of familiar faces in the Worcester ranks for Matfield, who adds: “There are four old Bulls guys that I know are playing there that I’ve played a lot of games with, and there’s also a few players who have played here at the Saints so they’ll know what they’re up against.”
Matfield is the subject of an extended interview in this week’s official Saints podcast, where he talks about what it’s like to face the British and Irish Lions, represent the Springboks at multiple Rugby World Cups, pull on the famous black and white hoops of the Barbarians, and his thoughts on the structure of rugby in England compared to South Africa. Listen for FREE on any device at www.soundcloud.com/official-saints-rugby.
There is double the rugby this Saturday, too, with England v Ireland being shown live from Twickenham on the bars at Franklin’s Gardens from 4:50pm.