Rugby Championship

Laying down a RWC marker

2014-09-12 17:00
Victor Matfield (Gallo Images)

Wellington - A Springbok victory over New Zealand in the fourth round of the Rugby Championship would go a long way towards changing the mindset of both teams with next year's Rugby World Cup fast approaching, according to South Africa lock Victor Matfield.

The All Blacks top the southern hemisphere competition table and are unbeaten in the tournament since it was expanded to four nations in 2012, winning 14 of 15 games with their only blemish a 12-12 draw against Australia in Sydney last month.

Since they won their second World Cup in 2011 and coach Steve Hansen took control of the side, they have won 31 of 34 Tests, drawn twice and lost just once, to England in 2012.

"They don't get beaten often. They've got a great record, especially this team which has a very proud record and is a very good team," Matfield told reporters on Friday, a day before their clash at Wellington Regional Stadium.

"The more you can beat the All Blacks the better, because you might face them in a World Cup and we know they will go into the World Cup as favourites.

"There are a few of the guys who haven't beaten them, so it would be great if we can get in their heads that they are not invincible."

The Springboks have not tasted victory over the All Blacks since a month before the last World Cup when they won 18-5 in Port Elizabeth, their only victory since they beat them three times in a row in 2009 to last clinch the Tri-Nations title.

Matfield, widely considered the best lineout forward in the world, was at his imperious best during that series, when the All Blacks' lineout deteriorated and they also found the Springboks' tactical kicking game difficult to diffuse.

The 37-year-old Matfield, who retired after the last World Cup before deciding to make a comeback this year in a bid to play in his fourth global tournament, felt the All Blacks had long learned their lessons from that 2009 schooling.

The lineout was now as good as any other in the world, while they were also adept at disrupting their opponents' ball, something Matfield put down to the influence of No 8 Kieran Read.

"There was a time when their lineout didn't fire. I think their lineout is probably the best to go up against at the moment," Matfield said.

"I think they understand the lineout better. A guy like Kieran Read makes a huge difference. He's making the calls.

"They probably analyse it and see it as a facet on its own and have put time into it. I think they spend a lot more time on their lineout than what they did in earlier years."

Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer has made no secret of his desire to beat the All Blacks before the World Cup and made a surprise selection with attack-minded rookie Handre Pollard given the nod at flyhalf, though Matfield said he was more than capable of adapting his game.

"With Handre, everyone is talking about this attacking flyhalf and yes he can play that way," he said. "But he was part of that team that beat New Zealand (Under-20s) here in the wet, in the rain. I think he is a guy who can play all conditions.

"It's great to see a guy like that getting a chance against opposition like the All Blacks."


New Zealand

15 Israel Dagg, 14 Ben Smith, 13 Conrad Smith, 12 Ma'a Nonu, 11 Julian Savea, 10 Aaron Cruden, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Kieran Read, 7 Richie McCaw (captain), 6 Steven Luatua, 5 Jeremy Thrush, 4 Brodie Retallick, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Dane Coles, 1 Wyatt Crockett.

Replacements: 16 Keven Mealamu, 17 Joe Moody, 18 Ben Franks, 19 Patrick Tuipulotu, 20 Sam Cane, 21 TJ Perenara, 22 Beauden Barrett, 23 Cory Jane

South Africa

15 Willie le Roux, 14 Cornal Hendricks, 13 Jan Serfontein, 12 Jean de Villiers (captain), 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Handré Pollard, 9 Ruan Pienaar, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Marcell Coetzee, 6 Francois Louw, 5 Victor Matfield, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Adriaan Strauss, 1 Tendai Mtawarira

Substitutes: 16 Bismarck du Plessis, 17 Trevor Nyakane, 18 Marcel van der Merwe, 19 Lood de Jager, 20 Warren Whiteley, 21 Francois Hougaard, 22 Pat Lambie, 23 Damian de Allende


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