Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer was the influence behind Victor Matfield’s return to rugby, the player said in Cape Town on Tuesday.
“After a while, when Heyneke took over as the Bok coach, he phoned me to ask me about making a comeback,” Matfield said.
“I was very tempted because coach Heyneke and I have worked closely together for many years. We understand each other, and he was really the guy who brought me through and developed my career.
“I thought that it would be great to play for the Boks under coach Heyneke.”
Matfield will lead the Springboks in an interim capacity in the Incoming Series matches against Wales and Scotland this month in the absence of the injured Jean de Villiers.
After a two-year lay-off, he knew he would have to work much harder as a 37-year-old, he said.
“There was the great disappointment of losing at the last World Cup and even failing to make the semi-finals.”
“The next World Cup was also a big motivation for me to come back. If I did not think I could play in another World Cup, and be part of a winning team, I would not be playing again.”
Meyer hailed Matfield as one of the best Springbok captains of all time.
“I think it’s a huge honour to represent your country but it’s also a huge responsibility to captain the national team,” Meyer said on Tuesday.
“I always believed that the Victor was one of the best captains of South Africa.”
The Springbok coach said he had met with captaincy candidates Matfield, Bismarck du Plessis and Fourie du Preez, to find out how they felt about shouldering the responsibility before he made a final decision.
“Victor has done it before and did it with distinction,” said Meyer.
“It would have been stupid not to stick with a guy who has done it before.
“I have a lot of confidence in the man. He’ll be great because his appointment is also good for the development of the team. He is a true professional.”
Matfield will captain the side for the first time since his return to rugby in Saturday’s match against a star-studded World XV at Newlands, Cape Town, kicking off at 5pm.
The Bulls lock who retired from international rugby in 2011 is a veteran of 110 Tests, and also captained the national side previously in 17 Tests.
Matfield said he enjoyed the captaincy role but also had a few concerns.
“Initially I thought it was a good idea but I must admit that afterwards I asked myself if I’d made the right decision,” Matfield said.
“I know there will be lots of pressure (from fans and media) and lots of (critical) opinion about me as Springbok captain.
“I was nervous when I made a comeback and I enjoyed captaining the Bulls.
“In the Bok team, we have about six guys who can help me make decisions and I’ll back them.”