Wales

Matfield: Boks seek 'perfect' game

Fri, 20 Jun 2014 14:43
Victor-matfield-bok-presser
I had butterflies about the speech
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South Africa are aiming for a perfect performance against Wales in their second Test in Nelspruit on Saturday.

The Springboks ran in five tries against the Celtic nation in Durban last weekend, but lost some steam in the final 20 minutes of the match.

Bok stalwart and captain Victor Matfield on Friday said the team was not completely satisfied with their performance and they would be looking to turn in an 80-minute performance of the same quality as last week's first half.

"In the first half we were spot on, we only conceded one penalty in that whole first half and were in their half the whole time and we could play," said Matfield, who will become the most-capped player in South Africa when he runs out in his 112th Test match - breaking the record he shared with John Smit.

"The second half we made mistakes and we gave them ball and we had to defend."

If South Africa eliminates the mistakes Matfield referred to, the Welsh could be in for a world of pain in Mpumalanga's Lowveld.

The Welsh have never tasted victory on South African soil and will be looking to make a step-up from their lacklustre performance in Durban.

Wales coach Warren Gatland had made only two changes to his run-on side with the hope they could plug the whole that sunk their ship so unceremoniously last weekend.

Gatland spoke at length of the high intensity of rugby in the southern hemisphere which his team was unable to cope with.

The Springboks' fleet-footed Willie le Roux was the mastermind in South Africa's convincing victory and Gatland would have made some plans to minimise or even stifle the threat the fullback posed to the Welsh.

While the South African pack established quick ball for the backline to run amok, Matfield reserved praise for the players behind the scrum.

"Few of the plans we had last week worked well, maybe they'll have a look at it and have a different defence, but we've got a good structure and within that good decisions," Matfield said.

"Some of our players, especially in the backs, made great decisions that led to tries, so hopefully those guys can breach the defence again and make good decisions this weekend.

"It is important that we are even better than last week, it was a great start for us, but there were a lot of mistakes there as well, and we want to get that right this week."

Springbok mentor Heyneke Meyer this week warned of a Welsh backlash, while he also called for an improved showing by his charges.

"They [Wales] will lift themselves and you can't be complacent, you have to take it to a new level," Meyer said.

"It is not about the score, it is just to get every single thing right and be consistent for 80 minutes. The main goal is to play the perfect game. I thought we were close to [that in] the first half, but you need to do that for 80 minutes."

Speaking about breaking Smit's record, Matfield said while it was a great achievement, his attention was directed on the team's performance rather than on himself.

"It is a great milestone for me but it is all about the team.

"We had a great game last week and there is a lot of pressure on us to go out and do the same and try to give an even better performance."

Matfield made his Test debut on June 30, 2001 against Italy in Port Elizabeth and retired after the World Cup in 2011 - standing on 110 caps for two years.

However, he has made a successful return to the game earlier this year.

"This is a fantastic accolade for Victor," Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer said.

"He has been a terrific servant of the game in South Africa and has led his country with distinction since returning to the Green and Gold.

"When he returned to the game earlier this season, he set his goals on becoming a Springbok yet again and he's worked extremely hard to get there. I don't think anyone can doubt that he deserves his place in the team and he's also been a great interim captain, with Jean de Villiers out injured."

Flip van der Merwe, who will partner Matfield in the second row this week and had combined well with the Bok stalwart on his return to the Bulls in this year's Super Rugby competition, said he was eager to continue their partnership for the national side.

"It is very special, I had my first start in the Springbok jersey with Victor as well, it went well and I think we can continue that," Van der Merwe said.

"I think I've played some good rugby with Victor on my side and I am enjoying it."

Before Matfield's return from his two-year retirement, the perceived lack of quality No.5 locks had been a nagging problem for the Bok coach, Meyer.

However, last year Van der Merwe slotted comfortably into that position for the national side and has since come into his own as one of the country's top second row forwards.

The emergence of Eben Etzebeth, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Lodewyk de Jager, and Stephan Lewies was also an indication that South Africa was growing a healthy depth at lock in general.

Injuries had kept Etzebeth and Du Toit out of the Springbok team for the June internationals but they were generally considered to be the future Springbok lock combination.

Juandre Kruger, who has been plying his trade with French club Racing Metro has been rated as one of the best locks in Europe the past season, but has fallen out of favour with the Springbok mentor.

The Springboks' friendly against the World XV at the beginning of June and last week's first match against Wales saw Matfield and Bakkies Botha reignite what used to be one of the best lock combinations in world rugby.

Botha's niggling Achilles tendon injury has again opened the door for Van der Merwe to prove he belongs at Matfield's side.

Competition for the second row could prove to be one of the hottest contested positions before next year's World Cup in England.

With injuries a constant threat to team selection, the growing depth in one of the most important positions is the remedy to what could have been a lingering problem.

De Jager impressed in his Springbok debut against Wales when he replaced Botha early in the second half.

Van der Merwe was a relieved man when he found a Springbok jersey with his name on his return to the squad this week after he had missed the first match.

"Every game in the Springbok jersey is a big thing and you definitely have some heartache on a Saturday when you don't play," Van der Merwe said.

"I had butterflies about the speech [at his brother's wedding reception] I had to do and not about running on for the Springboks.

"I definitely missed playing in the Springbok jersey and every Test you miss is a big one. Big ups to the coach for letting me go and attend my brother's wedding."

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