Cape Town - A diplomatic Victor Matfield, captain of the Bulls and vice-captain of the Springbok side which play France in a one-off Test at Newlands on Saturday, said he felt fine and ready for the matches which lay ahead for the remainder of the season.
Matfield responded to a question by the media whether he wasn't tired after the statement by Bok coach Peter de Villiers earlier in the week that the Bulls and Stormers had not managed their players well. This was done in the wake of the injuries to Bulls and Springbok scrumhalf Fourie du Preez and the Stormers lock Andries Bekker.
"Once you're with the Boks, you're ready to play," said Matfield. "After all, we're only halfway through the season."
Matfield felt Saturday's Test would be a hard clash. "France is up there with the best. I know we haven't done well against them lately but most of those losses were in France. It's nice to be playing in South Africa," Matfield said.
South Africa have lost seven of their last nine Tests against France.
Matfield agreed with recalled Springbok prop Gurthro Steenkamp that France would be very physical.
"They're a very physical side and they do the basics well," said Matfield.
"They have a good scrum, a good lineout and they're good and physical at the breakdown."
However, the Springboks will contest the French lineouts. It won't be easy, though, as France were one of the best lineout teams in the world and "did things a little differently," he said.
Matfield said it was an important Test. "But so is every other Test."
With France one of the sides to watch in next year's World Cup he said it was difficult to say in context how important Saturday's Test was, adding that from now on it would be important to try and get a mental edge on opposition.
"We need to be ready," he said with reference to the slow start against Wales last weekend. "With the old guys back, together we'll hopefully gel quicker. You could see it in training with guys slotting in quicker, " he added.
Flyhalf Morne Steyn, who is being partned with Ricky Januarie for the first time in a Test start, said it would take some adapting.
"Fourie (du Preez) and I have been playing together for a few seasons now. But Ricky is an experienced player and there shouldn't be problems," Steyn said, who felt his kicking form was back where it should be after some average performances in the Super 14 overseas.
He said the fact that he was next to his Bulls team mate Wynand Olivier who is at inside centre will also help to make things easier with a new halfback partner.
Steenkamp said the fact that he had been recalled "makes me get goosebumps every time I think about it." It is his first Test start since 2008 - and he emphasised that he didn't come out this season to prove that he was good enough after the disastrous scrumming performances by the Springboks in the midweek games on the year-end tour.
"There were many reasons for that," he said, pointing out that it was a "bunch of new guys playing together for the first time." His successful season, says Steenkamp, was the result of the Bulls forwards wanting to prove a point (in the scrums).
Like Matfield, he expected a huge onslaught from France, especially up front. "It will be good to measure myself against them," he said.