The imposing lock looked every day of his 38-and-a-half years, complete with greying beard, in the shock defeat by Japan at the start of the pool stage and then damaged a hamstring in the second game against Samoa.
Many observers thought that might be the end for Matfield, but he has worked hard on his rehabilitation and was named among the replacements yesterday for the semi-final at Twickenham, where he will win his 126th cap.
“From day one, wherever we need him, he has been ready to serve,” Heyneke Meyer said after including Matfield in an otherwise unchanged matchday squad.
“He’s been an unbelievable servant of Springbok rugby and we’re proud to have a guy like that.”
Matfield is revelling in being part of the sport’s showcase. “I came back to be at the World Cup,” he said. “I believe this is a team that can win the World Cup and I want to be part of it.”
Matfield has faced the All Blacks a remarkable 26 times, winning nine.
“Every time it’s within five or six points with two or three minutes to go,” he said. “That last 10 minutes is very important. It’s all about composure, doing the right things and keeping calm. The last 10 or 15 minutes will be crucial on Saturday. I’m 100% sure.”