Boks on Tour

Victor delighted Jean's fit

2010-11-05 14:41
Victor Matfield (File)

Dublin - South Africa received a boost on Friday ahead of their Grand Slam tour opener against Ireland when Jean de Villiers was passed fit to take his place in the world champions' midfield.

Springbok captain Victor Matfield, speaking to reporters at Lansdowne Road on Friday, said the 63-time capped former Munster centre had "pulled through" following a groin problem and would start on Saturday. Kick-off is at 19:30 SA time.

"Jean's pulled through, he will be ready," Matfield, leading the injury-hit side in place of John Smit - one of 13 players ruled out of the tour - said.

"Willem Alberts didn't come through so Keegan Daniel will come into the 22," added Matfield of a side showing eight changes to the one beaten last time out by Australia.

Veteran lock Matfield said he was delighted to have someone of De Villiers's experience in wing Bryan Habana apart, an otherwise fledgling back division.

"It's great. He's our leader in the backline. It will be nice for me as well to have Jean there, making calls and keeping everything together. He's a quality player so it's great that he's fit."

Uncapped flyhalf Patrick Lambie, man-of-the-match for the Sharks in last week's South African domestic Currie Cup final win against Western Province, is on the bench.

The 20-year-old was in line to start in midfield if De Villiers had been ruled out.

South Africa, bidding to complete a first clean sweep of wins over the four 'Home Nations' on the one tour since 1960, only arrived in Dublin on Thursday and come into this match on the back of a dreadful Tri-Nations where they won just one of their six fixtures.

It looked as if they were struggling to adjust to the new law interpretations, which favour teams keeping ball in hand, but Matfield insisted the fundamentals of rugby had not changed.

"Rugby will always stay rugby," Matfield insisted. "It's all about accuracy, energy on the field and commitment. That's what it's all about.

"I think we all know with the new law interpretation we all know it's nice to keep the ball in hand, you can keep the ball for longer.

"So you need to adapt that as well, but everything else is still in the game," insisted Matfield, who will be reunited with Bakkies Botha against Ireland in one of the all-time great second row partnership after his fellow lock's return from suspension.

"You still need to be able to drive, your kicking game is still very important to get out of your half."

But he admitted trying to knit the side together in a short space of time following the Currie Cup final had been a tricky task.

"Some still want to celebrate, some of them are a bit down but, like I said, the moment you put on that Springbok jersey you need to be 100 percent focused for the job at hand. I believe the guys will be ready."

This weekend also sees South Africa trying to avoid a fourth straight defeat by Ireland in what will be the first international match staged at Lansdowne Road since the ground's 410 million euros total redevelopment and win in Dublin for the first time since 2000.

But Matfield said the Springboks were looking to use adversity to their advantage.

"We had a little chat this (Friday) morning about believing in ourselves. There's not a lot of people giving us a chance in this game, hopefully it will motivate the guys.

"It may not be the most experienced side but we still think we've got a lot of talent in this side."

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