Cardiff - Judging from his mood at the pre-match press conference in Cardiff on Friday, getting Victor Matfield to talk or think about anything other than Wales and the Millennium Stadium at the moment might be more difficult than winning ball off him in the lineout.
Matfield lays sole claim to being the most capped player in Springbok history when he plays his 103rd Test here on Saturday, but if it is something he is taking any personal satisfaction from, he was certainly giving no indication of that. He was asked the question about his 100th cap twice – clearly there some disbelieving people present – but twice Matfield gave the same answer.
“My only focus at this stage is on playing against Wales. Those sort of things might be important to me one day when my career is over and I look back, but at the moment the team and the task at hand is what is important,” said Matfield.
“Last week we started the tour well (by beating Ireland in Dublin) and we are keen to carry it on by beating Wales on Saturday. We know it won’t be easy and the Welsh have a more experienced pack than Ireland did last week. But we are desperate to win so that we can end a difficult year on a strong note.”
Of course to do that would probably require of the Boks that they complete the Grand Slam, which entails beating all the four Home Unions, but again Matfield wasn’t prepared to go that far ahead.
“We are not thinking of that at the moment, all we want to do at the moment is beat Wales,” repeated Matfield when asked if a Grand Slam would balance the books for 2010 after the Tri-Nations debacle.
“We won’t be achieving the Grand Slam if we don’t win against Wales. That is our focus at the moment, we are not looking beyond that at all.”
Matfield’s steely and determined attitude has been the story of the tour so far, and it has rubbed off on a squad that arrived in a state of disarray as a result of a spate of injury related withdrawals from the tour squad before departure.
But while injuries could have been contemplated as an excuse for failure on this tour, Matfield’s mantra for the tour has been “no excuses”, and he continued with that on Friday.
“I told the guys before the game last week that although there may be injuries we are still the Springboks and will be expected to perform at a certain standard. We won last week but I wouldn’t say where we want to be so hopefully we can make an improvement against Wales.”