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Northampton look to sign Matfield

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Northampton Saints are looking to sign World Cup-winning South African Victor Matfield showing their determination to make an immediate impact on next season’s Guinness Premiership after a year in League One.

The Franklin’s Gardens side were relegated in 2007 but have bounced straight back after an unbeaten season and have already signed Sale star Ben Foden and Ulster and Ireland flanker Neil Best.

The Daily Mail reports that Matfield has been offered a contract reported to be worth ‘375,000 (R5.6m) a year which is significantly more than the R2 million (‘132,000) a year he was rumoured to have been earning in South Africa.

Matfield is renowned as one of if not the best line out specialist in the world and together with fellow South African Bakkies Botha they formed a formidable partnership for the Bulls and South Africa.

Matfield, 30, was on the five-man shortlist for IRB World Player of the Year in 2006, and was man of the match when South Africa beat England in the World Cup final last October in Paris.

The former Bulls player, who has captained his country in John Smit’s absence, has been playing for French second division team Toulon this year, alongside George Gregan and Andrew Mehrtens, as the former giants plot a quick return to France’s top flight.

Crucial in Northampton’s negotiations with Matfield is the fact that the South African Rugby Football Union now have a policy allowing a limited number of players plying their trade overseas to continue playing for the Springboks although the coach said today that he would look at players involved in the Super 14 first.

Matfield is known to be wanting to play for South Africa during the British and Irish Lions tour of South Africa in 2009 so he is expected to insist on a clause in his Northampton contract that he would be released to play for South Africa against the Lions.

Northampton hope to announce Matfield’s signing this week.
Rugbyweek.com   

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