Gavin Rich - SuperSport
Edinburgh - The disruption caused by the two positive tests returned this week for banned stimulants appear to have done nothing to deflect Springbok captain Victor Matfield’s intense focus on what he sees as his job at hand.
From day one of this tour Matfield’s determination to succeed has been a stand-out, as has his refusal to veer away onto any subject that does not specifically target the challenge of beating the four test teams that the Boks face on this tour.
Last week he made it clear he wasn’t looking beyond Wales and appeared extremely one-tracked, and even though the tour group was plunged into controversy earlier this week when Chiliboy Ralepelle and Bjorn Basson were sent home after being tested positive for a banned stimulant, Matfield stuck to that line at the final press conference before Saturday’s clash with Scotland at Murrayfield.
“We are not allowing anything to deflect our focus, we are focusing only on beating Scotland on Saturday,” said Matfield when asked if the stimulant controversy had been a distraction.
When asked if the week had been his toughest in the time he has captained the Boks, he also straight-batted it away.
“When you play for the Springboks every week is a big week, there is always a big challenge that you face. So no, I don’t think that this week has been different or bigger than any other weeks,” he said.
Matfield also stuck to the theme of the week, which is the respect they are according Scotland ahead of a game most people back home seem to be expecting the Boks to win easily.
“We always go out there playing to win and back home most people are expecting us to win, but that doesn’t happen without focus and hard work. We won our previous games but in neither of them was our accuracy where we would like it to be.”
The Boks have been a bit like Bruce Fordyce for the past few months in that like the great ultra-marathon runner, they seem to conserve themselves early on and then only hit the straps near the halfway mark of the game. The view that for the Boks the games only begin in the 35th minute was supported earlier this week by coach Peter de Villiers, who agreed that the side appeared at times to be saving themselves.
“I have told them they need to be like Bakkies, who starts every game with 100% intensity,” said De Villiers. However Matfield has a different take: “We started slowly last week but we started quickly the week before and allowed Ireland to come back at us. To me it is all a question of accuracy. If you are not accurate, particularly in your kicking game, then you struggle during those stages of the game that this is the case.”