Ken Borland
Sports Journalist
2 minute read
2 Jun 2022
3:16 pm

Matfield says Bulls are clear favourites for URC playoff against Sharks

Ken Borland

"The Bulls are better coached at the moment. They know how they want to play and how to win.'

Victor Matfield has backed the Bulls to beat the Sharks in their URC quarterfinal this weekend. Picture: Gallo Images

Victor Matfield’s love for the Bulls is well known given his legendary career at Loftus Versfeld, and so it is no surprise to hear the former Springbok captain say that Jake White’s team are clear favourites for him when it comes to their United Rugby Championship quarterfinal against the Sharks in Pretoria on Saturday.

And the presence of White, who was coach of the Springboks when they won the 2007 World Cup with Matfield the man of the match in the final, is one of the differences between the two teams for the former lock, who backed him to get the better of Sharks coach Sean Everitt, whose ability to get the best out of a star-studded Sharks team has been questioned in some quarters.

ALSO READ: ‘It’s a 50/50 game’: Bulls expect hard-fought battle against Sharks

“The Bulls must be favourites,” Matfield said. “They are better coached at the moment, they know how they want to play and how to win.

“The Sharks are a fantastic team on paper, it’s just that they don’t always play the way we know they can.

“Playing at Loftus Versfeld will also definitely be an advantage for the Bulls. They know how to play there and have had a very good record there for the last two-to-three years.

“But the Bulls scrum will need to stand up because the Sharks have won a lot of penalties there. The Sharks scrum very well.”

The lineout maestro also said he wanted to see the Bulls really pile on the pressure in the opening exchanges, using their powerful forwards to batter the Sharks and have them crying for mom early on in the quarterfinal.

ALSO READ: URC quarterfinals: Dates and kick-off times confirmed

“The Bulls struggle when they start games too loose. They are very good when they start by getting that forward dominance,” Matfield said.

“In some games we’ve seen them not employ a drive at the first three lineouts, instead going to the midfield and trying to play ball-in-hand rugby.

“But I think once they get that momentum, that forward dominance, then they can spread the ball and really test the defences.”

If the Bulls do beat the Sharks, however, then Matfield said a likely semi-final against Leinster in Dublin would be a daunting prospect.

“Once they get over to Europe for the semi-finals then it becomes much more difficult. To beat Leinster you have to be at your best,” he said.

“But I believe the Bulls and Stormers can compete against them if they get their packs of forwards really up for the game,” Matfield said.