World Cup-winning forwards assistant coach, Matthew Proudfoot joined the Maties Rugby ahead of the 2023 FNB Varsity Cup tournament. Following an illustrious coaching career, the former Scotland International returns to the very tournament that ignited his coaching career in 2008.
“Having grown up my whole life as a Maties and Western Province supporter, for me to be here it is a massive privilege. I grew up in the era of Doc Craven and having watched Maties for years and years growing up, I pinch myself knowing I sit in Doc Craven’s office. It really is a massive privilege to be part of an institution with the reputation as Stellenbosch – I take it very seriously and I have a lot to offer the players; I am going to give them my best,” said new Consultant Head Coach Matthew Proudfoot.
Drickus Hancke, Head of Maties Rugby Programme, expressed his sentiments toward the appointment of such a decorated coach, relishing the opportunity to work alongside Proudfoot.
“[We are] very excited, Matt has a lot of experience that he can share with players and coaches which can improve the whole club,” Hancke told Maties Sport. “Norman [Jordaan]’s resignation started a process of us looking to see what we can do to set up the team for a good VC [FNB Varsity Cup] campaign.”
Moreover, Hancke cleared up any doubts that might exist among Maties faithful and general rugby-loving public regarding the timing of Proudfoot’s appointment.
“The resignation might be seen as in the middle of the preseason but where we were in our workflow allowed Matt to still influence [the planning and execution] a lot. We are all looking forward to collaborating with him and already enjoyed the time we have had with him.”
Coach Proudfoot also went on to say that: “We are focused on our first game against UCT, we haven’t looked far down the draw – we want to take it game by game and our focus for that is to prepare the players as well as possible. We are in the peak phase of our preparation now, we are loading and doing as much physical work as we can for the next two weeks until our first friendly games.”
Born and raised in the Northwest town of Potchefstroom, Proudfoot matriculated from Potchefstroom High School for Boys and went on to be selected for the Leopards in both Currie Cup and Vodacom Cup competitions. The former front row qualified to represent Scotland at the Test level through his paternal grandfather.
Injuries marred Proudfoot’s playing days resulting in early retirement, in 2003, after only four Tests for Scotland, this set him on a different path, one that has boded well for the former Springboks and England forward coach.
Proudfoot, who will turn 51 on 30 January, started his coaching career in his childhood hometown at the Pukke (now known as the NWU Eagles) during the inaugural FNB Varsity Cup competition. Following his successful tenure at the Puk Rugby Institute, he joined Western Province and the Stormers during the 2008 season.
He went on to tell Maties Sport, “I started my coaching career at university level and the reason why I enjoying coaching university students is because they are curious and want to learn, as well as have a high appetite to improve. As a coach that is really rewarding when you have players who take on board the things you want to implement and who ask good questions, it is exciting for me to coach players like that,” expressed Proudfoot.
The former Glasgow Warriors prop has credited his kickstart and inevitably his success as a professional coach to the simulated professional structure of the FNB Varsity Cup.
“The universities deserve a lot of credit for taking that big leap in 2008 and putting structures in place,” Proudfoot told www.varsitycupsa.co.za in a previous article.
“I think the Varsity Cup competition is a fantastic competition, the fact that you have full-time students able to still play sport at a very high level is really good especially for the university to have a prominent team like the Maties that is steeped in tradition playing in Varsity Cup,” Proudfoot said.
Proudfoot joined the Springboks ahead of the 2016 season following an eight-year tenure at Cape Town-based Western Province and the Stormers, and a season-long stint with Japan outfit Kobelco Kobe Steelers as an assistant coach during the 2015/16 Japanese season. During his time at Western Province and the Stormers Proudfoot won three South African Vodacom Super Rugby Conference titles and two Absa Currie Cup triumphs.
He would win the ultimate prize in World Rugby when the Boks won the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan. As the senior forwards coach at Western Province and the Stormers, he developed players like Springbok captain Siya Kolisi, Eben Etzebeth, Steven Kitshoff, Frans Malherbe, and Vincent Koch (all were part of the successful Springbok squad that won the 2019 Rugby World Cup), Nizaam Carr, and Scarra Ntubeni to name a handful of world-class players.
Maties kick off their FNB Varsity Cup season at the Danie Craven Stadium against the old foe, FNB UCT Ikeys on 20 February at 19h00.
Hancke is confident that both players and coaches know what is expected of them and are well-equipped to meet each challenge head-on.
Hancke continued: “We set high standards at the club so anything below winning the competition will be a disappointment for us. We strongly believe in the development of players and coaches, whatever the outcome, we want them to be better at the end of the season.
“We hope each player gains experience and learns principles and values that will set them up for a successful future,” concludes Hancke.