Victor looking for RWC psychological boost
Forget this Saturday and what most people see as a quest for Springbok revenge against the one team that has had the better of them recently -- the Newlands test is all about gaining a psychological boost for a match that may happen in 17 months' time.
At least that is the view of Victor Matfield, the Bok vice-captain, as the South Africans complete their preparations for a test against France that has had a relatively low-key buildup considering it will be played in rugby mad Cape Town.
The Soccer World Cup is what it is all about at the moment in the Mother City, with the newspapers for once reserving the banner headlines and the double page spreads to the round ball game. It will change though, the euphoria will pass, and next September and October the Springboks will again be the focus of attention as another Rugby World Cup rolls into view.
John Smit’s men are not down to play against France in the pool stages in New Zealand, but there is a good chance they might bump into France in the knockouts. As New Zealanders will tell you, they can be an extremely tough proposition in a play-off.
“It’s a very important game for us to win as we need to ensure that we do not go to the World Cup with a losing habit against France,” said Matfield on Thursday.
“The French are right up there with the best in the world, and they should be competitive at the World Cup. Beating them now will ensure we take a mental edge into that tournament should we end up playing against them.”
The Boks know they are in for a tough battle at Newlands, as the French have won the last three one-off tests between the countries in Paris in 2005, Cape Town in 2006 and in Toulouse last year. As you can see, the Boks and France have not met often in the last few years, but Matfield reckons that South Africa do tend to have the advantage on home soil.
“They have enjoyed some success against us recently, but it’s not often that they beat us in South Africa. Our preparation has been good this week, right from the first practice. You could see the older guys taking charge and in general players were just slotting into the way we want to play.
“France will be fiery, but we believe we have what it takes to counter that. There is talk of them being fatigued, but while it will be nice for us if they are tired, we won’t be counting on it.”
Matfield is in no doubt that the biggest French threat will come from their pack, with their attention to basics being the key to their recent successes.
“Everyone talks about their flair, but it is really their forwards around which most of their game revolves. They have a good scrum and an excellent lineout. They are missing a few players, but the men who replace them are all excellent players.”