But now Matfield, who won 110 caps for his country and played a pivotal role in the 2009 series success against the Lions, has hinted that he could soon be back in Bok colours as a player but more likely as an assistant coach.
The South African Rugby Union are expected to appoint Matfield's former Blues Bulls boss Heyneke Meyer as Peter de Villiers' replacement tomorrow, prompting the 34-year-old to admit that he would be open to discussing both avenues if Meyer gets the top job.
"Everyone knows what I think about Heyneke, but we must wait until Friday before we talk about it," Matfield told South Africa's Star newspaper.
"Let's wait and see what happens, we will talk. Everything has consequences.
"Playing? I don't know but we will see. It depends if he wants me. I really don't know, it is difficult to say."
Matfield is currently coaching with the Bulls and working for broadcaster SuperSport as a broadcaster and an analyst.
Those contracts would appear to rule out a full-time playing role but rumours are now growing that Matfield could be offered a lineout coaching role under ex-Leicester coach Meyer.