Born on 11 May 1977 in Pietersburg (now Polokwane), South Africa, Matfield grew up with a love for both rugby and cricket, and even represented Far North Schools in the latter. When an injury affected his batting and bowling he decided to pursue rugby instead and was selected for Far Norths junior Craven Week team before playing lock for Pietersburg High School. He made it to the Craven Week competition for high schools in two successive years before being selected for Far North’s senior provincial team while still in his final year of high school.
A big turning point in Matfield’s career came when he decided to leave the Blue Bulls for the Griquas in 1999, where he was also selected to represent the Cats in the Super 12 that year. The move allowed him to prove his worth, and in 2000 he was given the opportunity to represent the Bulls Super 12 team.
His hard work did not go unnoticed, and in 2001 he was finally selected for the Springbok squad, making his debut on 30 June 2001 against Italy. Matfield went on to help the Springboks’ renaissance in 2004 and 2005; in the latter year, he made the five-man shortlist for IRB World Player of the Year.
Matfield was an instant selection for South Africa’s 2007 World Cup winning-squad, and won the Man of the Match award in the final for his brilliant work in the line-out.
Matfield had been linked with a move to Leicester Tigers of the English Premiership after the 2007 Rugby World Cup., but later signed a six-month contract with French second division club Toulon, beginning in January 2008. At Toulon, he joined an ambitious side whose president Mourad Boudjellai signed many veteran superstars for the 2007–2008 season, such as Australian George Gregan, the sport’s all-time leader in international appearances; Andrew Mehrtens, the all-time leading scorer for the All Blacks; and, as coach, former All Blacks captain Tana Umaga.
Between January and February 2008, Matfield played for Toulon in a stretch of nine key matches, before returning to South Africa and taking part in the 2008 Super 14 season with the Bulls. It was reported his decision to return was due to the South African Rugby Union having reconsidered to continue with its policy of allowing a limited number of overseas-based players to play for the Springboks.
In 2014, Matfield returned to rugby as a player, signing a 2-year playing contract with the Bulls to keep him in the game until the end of 2015.
At the 2015 Rugby World Cup Matfield started in the first 2 group games for South Africa. The Springboks advanced to the knock out stages, with Matfield coming on from the bench in their semi final loss to New Zealand. Matfield’s final international game was a 24-13 victory in the third place playoff against Argentina where he again came on as a second half substitute.
In 2015 it was announced that Matfield would sign for Northampton Saints after the 2015 Rugby World Cup. Matfield played for Northampton for one season before ending his 21 year career in a game against Gloucester Rugby
Over the course of his career, Matfield has won the Currie Cup final three times (2002, 2004 & 2009), the Super 14 title in 2007, 2009 and 2010, the Tri-Nations in 2004 and 2009 and the Rugby World Cup in 2007.
In 2008 he was inducted into the University of Pretoria Hall of fame.
Commentator and coach
Matfield retired from the Springboks after the 2011 World Cup, and considered a coaching career in Australia with the NSW Waratahs.
He subsequently joined SuperSport as a TV presenter for the Super Rugby season. He was also part of the coaching team and served as a line-out consultant for the Blue Bulls provincial rugby team in 2013