Given the good form the 36-year-old veteran has been in during the past few weeks, that was the surprising confirmation from coach Frans Ludeke yesterday upon the side’s departure.
Matfield will climb on the plane in his capacity as the Bulls’ line-out and attack specialist, a position he’s held since the start of 2013 but currently isn’t allowed to turn out as per Sanzar regulations.
“Flip van der Merwe’s return has changed the dynamic regarding Victor’s selection,” said Ludeke.
“Victor is part of the management team for the trip. The three locks in our squad will be Grant Hattingh, Paul Willemse and Flip. We can’t pick Victor at the moment.”
While doubts remain over his overall authority on the field – Sharks director of rugby Jake White previously warned that people can’t expect Matfield to reproduce the general play of his heyday given his age – his fitness and continued silky skills in the line-out has been a feature of the Bulls’ resurgence. Despite his initial impact role in the campaign, he’s gathered line-out ball with metronomic ease and the 25 throw-ins he’s caught places him seventh on the list for the season. Ludeke, though, hasn’t ruled out using him.
“We have an arrangement with Sanzar that if there’s an injury on tour, then Victor will obviously come into play,” he said.
It shouldn’t be forgotten that the Bulls do face the balancing act of channelling Matfield’s experience while not alienating the younger men.
“We’re sticking to what we committed to: our foremost objective remains to develop,” said Ludeke.
The Bulls face the Hurricanes this weekend and play the Highlanders the following Friday.