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Former Bok captain Victor Matfield launches personal tirade at Sam Warburton

By Ben Smith
South Africa's lock and captain Victor Matfield raises his finger during the bronze medal match of the 2015 Rugby World Cup between South Africa and Argentina at the Olympic Stadium, east London, on October 30, 2015. (Photos by FRANCK FIFE/AFP via Getty Images)

Former Springboks captain Victor Matfield and ex-assistant coach Swys de Bruin have taken aim at former Wales captain Sam Warburton over his view on Ireland.


Warburton publicly stated that he believes Ireland to be the world’s best team after they captured another Six Nations title during a run of Tests which has seen them win 21 of 23 over the last few years.

The debate over which team is the world’s best has raged on since the Springboks claimed back-to-back World Cups over a 14-man New Zealand side last November.

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Matfield and De Bruin responded to Warburton’s view, with the former Bok captain launching into a personal tirade against Warburton’s career achievements in an attempt to disqualify his view.

“I don’t think he has (Warburton) made a final, no, he hasn’t made a World Cup final,” Matfield told SuperSport’s Final Whistle show.

“He hasn’t made a semi-final of a World Cup. Now you want to tell everyone that Ireland, who hasn’t made a semi-final in a World Cup, is the best team in the world when South Africa has won back-to-back.

“He must live in his own world.”

Although Warburton didn’t make a Rugby World Cup final in his career, he did in fact make a semi-final in 2011 before a fateful red card against France.


The Springboks have not beaten Ireland since 2016, with the Irish winning the last three Tests between the two sides. During last year’s Rugby World Cup, Ireland defeated South Africa 13-8 during pool play.

Former Springbok assistant Swys de Bruin continued by blasting overseas pundits as “sensational guys” who don’t recognise “facts”.

“The pundits overseas, they are sensational guys. It’s not about facts. Victor gave the facts,” said De Bruin

“Sam is a great player but he can’t tie Victor’s shoelaces when it comes to experience and say what he wants to say.”


The former assistant coach had no doubt over who was the world’s best team, putting the Springboks at the top of the pile.

“How can you ask me that? South Africa, Springboks.”

Matfield pointed to Leinster’s recent loss to the Bulls as evidence that Ireland are not better than the Springboks.

With so many Irish internationals in the Leinster side, their semi-final failure against Jake White’s Bulls shows that they will struggle against the full Springbok side.

“I am wondering at this stage if Ireland is the second-best team. Two years ago, before the World Cup, Ireland was really on a high,” Matfield said.

“I mean they (Leinster) come over with 14 of their starters and can’t beat the Bulls.

“They will be a different team. If you put a Bundee (Aki) at 12 that gives them momentum it makes them a different team.”

In this episode of Walk the Talk, Jim Hamilton chats with double World Cup winner Damian de Allende about all things Springbok rugby, including RWC2023 and the upcoming Ireland series. Watch now for free on RugbyPass TV


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Turlough 16 days ago

I see in Erasmus’s interview he says there was no messing on the SA side and all the niggle was with the Irish media. A bad liar, but it shows his attempt to inflame SA will achieve nothing except perhaps extracting the best possible performance out of Ireland.

Dawid 16 days ago

This is sensationalist paraphrasing from an official world rugby owned news site.

You should be ashamed. The debate between Swys and Victor was pure quality ranging from picking players on form or for future and if its more important to win this game as Ireland is seen as the best team in the world by some pundits.

And all you can take out of it is painting two great former players in a petty poor light.

I hope Irish and Welsh fans see my comment as it was not as this “article” says it was.

Turlough 16 days ago

Honestly, I am developing quite a dislike from playing the two SH ‘Giants’ when all you get is this level of toxic Donald Trump type commentary from their so called ‘Greats’.
Ireland and Irish supporters just need to play these guys, hopefully beat them and then not have to interact until necessary again. Etsebeth, DeAllende, Kolbe and now Matfield at this childish sh1t. Do SA supporters actually enjoy this nonsense?

Again, Rassie won’t be able to put a picture of Sam Warburton on the dressing room wall for motivation. His unpleasant ploy of trying to paint Ireland as arrogant has failed. Ireland are deathly quiet so you can only imagine it is quietly motivating them. Two weeks and then good riddance.

Turlough 16 days ago

I see Erasmus’s troops have given up on the attempt to frame Ireland as arrogant. A picture of Sam Warburton on the wall in the Loftus Road dressing room might not have the desired effect. Ireland so so silent. Three days til the real talking starts.

John 17 days ago

Warburton was a fantastic 7 but Victor is right. The boks were the best when it counted most. That said, talk is cheap. I hope for a proper match at Loftus; best of luck to best sides on personnel/injuries but go bokke!

Johan 18 days ago

Why are the guys getting so emotional??? Talk is cheap and money buys the Whisky. Lets see what the 2 test have to say! That’s all that counts.

Ben 18 days ago

Douche bag Ben Smith at it again…. please get another job, you suck at this one BEN SMITH! Sorry excuse for a Kiwi……

Rory 18 days ago

Read the headline, see who the “writer” is and can guess the content will be provocative BS from the BS itself.

Ross 18 days ago

Why is a story from months ago being brought up again? Oh yes! Because RP are trying to stir up sh*t…as usual.

Justin 18 days ago

this show Final Whistle.. the guys have a go at each other nevermind other pundits, its full on confrontational. Going to give a lot of clickable quotes

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finn 5 hours ago
Ireland and South Africa share the same player development dilemma

What a difference 9 months makes! Last autumn everyone was talking about how important versatile bench players were to SA’s WC win, now we’re back to only wanting specialists? The timing of this turn is pretty odd when you consider that some of the best players on the pitch in the SA/Ireland match were Osbourne (a centre playing out of position at 15), Feinberg-Mngomezulu (a fly-half/centre playing out of position at 15), and Frawley (a utility back). Having specialists across the backline is great, but its not always necessary. Personally I think Frawley is unlikely to displace Crowley as first choice 10, but his ability to play 12 and 15 means he’s pretty much guaranteed to hold down a spot on the bench, and should get a decent amount of minutes either at the end of games or starting when there are injuries. I think Willemse is in a similar boat. Feinberg-Mngomezulu possibly could become a regular starter at 10 for the Springboks, but he might not, given he’d have to displace Libbok and Pollard. I think its best not to put all your eggs in one basket - Osbourne played so well at the weekend that he will hopefully be trusted with the 15 shirt for the autumn at least, but if things hadn’t gone well for him he could have bided his time until an opportunity opened up at centre. Similarly Feinberg-Mngomezulu is likely to get a few opportunities at 15 in the coming months due to le Roux’s age and Willemse’s injury, but given SA don’t have a single centre aged under 30 its likely that opportunities could also open up at 12 if he keeps playing there for Stormers. None of this will discount him from being given gametime at 10 - in the last RWC cycle Rassie gave a start at 10 to Frans Steyn, and even gave de Klerk minutes there off the bench - but it will give him far more opportunities for first team rugby.

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