Updated: Sunday, 23 March 2014 04:07 | By Agence France-Presse

Matfield leads Bulls to key Super 15 victory

Legendary lock Victor Matfield marked his return as captain by leading Northern Bulls to a 23-19 victory over Coastal Sharks in a captivating Super 15 clash Saturday.

Matfield leads Bulls to key Super 15 victory

Victor Matfield answers questions during a press conference on October 3, 2011 in Wellington - by Stephane de Sakutin

Matfield, the second most capped Springbok with 110, ended a two-year retirement to play for the Pretoria outfit in the southern hemisphere inter-provincial championship this season.

And when skipper and fellow lock Flip van der Merwe was forced to withdraw injured 48 hours before kick-off, Matfield, 36, was assigned a role he last had in the 2011 season.

He was dominant at the line-outs as the home side scored two second-half tries to turn a 13-6 half-time deficit into a four-point triumph at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria.

"We succeeded by playing for each other," said Matfield, whose ultimate ambition is to be part of the Springboks 2015 Rugby World Cup squad.

"Paul Willemse came in for Flip and had an awesome game. We were up against a team with many superstars and I'm delighted at the victory.

"Success was vital for us in terms of the overall standings and the South African conference because a win for the Sharks would have created a big gap between us." 

While victory lifted the Bulls to sixth place overall with 14 points, Sharks remained on top with 19 after suffering a first loss this season following four home wins.

The Durban outfit were dealt two major early injury blows with half-backs Patrick Lambie (fly) and Cobus Reinach (scrum) forced to retire and Tim Swiel and Charl McLeod coming on.

But helped by the superb goal-kicking of centre Francois Steyn they were only one point behind until replacement Bulls fly-half Handre Pollard potted a penalty a minute from time.

Sharks' defeat means there are no unbeaten teams as defending champions Waikato Chiefs from New Zealand surrendered their perfect record after losing to Western Force in Australia six hours earlier.

"We were not thinking of the unbeaten record -- we just wanted to win," stressed Sharks skipper and hooker Bismarck du Plessis.

"Half-backs play major roles and losing Patrick and Cobus so early were huge setbacks, although that is no excuse for our defeat."

Flank Willem Alberts opened the scoring on eight minutes by barging over for a try to complete a sweeping movement and Swiel converted.

Bulls narrowed the gap to a point as fly-half Jacques-Louis Potgieter kicked a penalty and a drop goal before a 35,000 crowd.

But a couple of late first-half penalties from Steyn restored the Sharks' seven-point advantage as they turned over 13-6 ahead.

Bulls flank Jacques du Plessis stormed down the middle to score eight minutes into the second half and a Potgieter conversion brought the teams level.

Left-wing Bjorn Basson created what proved the crucial score six minutes later with a break that culminated in centre JJ Engelbrecht taking a long pass and going over far out.

Potgieter converted to build a seven-point advantage that was trimmed to just one as Steyn potted two more penalties.

Bulls finished strongly and Pollard made no mistake with a penalty in front of the posts to ensure revenge for a 31-16 opening-round loss in Durban.

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