A two-time Celebrity Shootout winner, Victor Matfield is one of South Africa’s sports legends and he loves taking money off Fourie du Preez, writes GARY LEMKE.
Your name was on the leaderboard of the 2019 BCX SuperSport Celebrity Shootout. Tell us about the event.
What a great time we had at Pearl Valley and I had another successful tournament. I won the betterball competition at Legends two years ago with Fourie du Preez and this time I was paired with Nick Mallett and won it again. I had a couple of nine-hole warm-up rounds with John Smit and Butch James to get my eye in.
How was it playing with Mallett?
He’s ultra-competitive and kept motivating me on the Sunday when I wasn’t at the top of my game. On Saturday I played well and on the Sunday he pulled through and had an outstanding day. Luckily he was totally focused and fresh on the second day.
Presumably you play off a single-figure handicap?
Actually, I’m out to a 10, down from a best of six a few years ago. I used to play a lot more golf, especially when I was still playing rugby. We used to have a weekly fourball and most weeks I played against Fourie.
We’ve heard that Fourie has taken money off many of his teammates on the course.
I have to be honest and admit that over the years we’ve played together I’m definitely down against him. But, there was an occasion, at the 2015 Rugby World Cup, when Fourie, myself, Adriaan Strauss and Duane Vermeulen played a round and I couldn’t go wrong and was taking a lot of pounds off Fourie. He ran out of money so offered to throw a Titleist hybrid into the mix. I won that off him too – and the club became one of my best weapons.
What are the best courses you’ve played?
As I said, I used to play a lot of golf when I was still active in rugby. Golf on a Springbok tour was always something to look forward to. We played every Thursday, with the usual suspects – Butch, Danie Rossouw, myself and Fourie – being in a regular fourball. Some of the best courses have been the Old Course at St Andrews in Scotland and The K Club in Ireland. That was some experience, and not even the cold and sleet could keep us away from playing at The K Club.
How nervous do you get on the tee when there’s a crowd?
Compared to golf, playing rugby was pretty easy. In rugby you’re part of a squad and you prepare as such, and when you run on the field you know what’s waiting for you. Last year I played at the inaugural Icons of Rugby tournament at Buckinghamshire Golf Club. It was northern-hemisphere rugby legends against the southern hemisphere. There were so many people standing on the 1st tee, I just took out my driver because it has the biggest head and therefore the best chance of hitting the ball! When I got to the green, I was still so nervous I could hardly pull the putter back two feet.
Being so tall, do you use standard golf clubs?
I’m two metres, which does make it a bit difficult but I play with a set of Cobras. Each club in the bag, with the exception of my driver which I use as it comes, is extended by around three inches so that I don’t look like a giraffe at a watering hole.
You’ve obviously played with some very good golfers. Who have been the worst?
Easily [former Bok lock] Flip van der Merwe! Then there’s Jean de Villiers, who hits a really bad fade. Sometimes he even struggles to make contact with the ball, but I’ll leave the rest of my comments for the golf course!
Ernie Els is a great ambassador for South African sport. Have you played golf with him?
Not yet. When I was with the Boks he often used to present the jersey to the squad before a Test and it was always special. He’s an amazing guy. I have played at the Ernie Els Invitational and most years get to see him in Herolds Bay, where we go on holiday.
Other things about your love for golf?
I haven’t had a hole-in-one. I came close in April actually, when I hit the pin at Wingate Park in Pretoria, but the ball stayed out. I enjoy watching the Majors on TV, and I love The Masters. This year the TV times suited us because they brought the final round forward due to the threat of bad weather. I also enjoy The Open Championship. The strongest part of my game is driving off the tee and that helps make the game easier. But I need to work on my putting, I leave too many shots out there on the green!
Victor Matfield is one of the giants of world rugby. A former Blue Bulls and Springbok captain, he is a 2007 World Cup winner. He played 127 Tests for the Springboks from 2001-15, won the Super Rugby title three times, the Currie Cup three times and the Tri-Nations twice. He also helped the Boks win the series against the 2009 British & Irish Lions. He is now a familiar face on SuperSport as a rugby analyst.