Boks: No time for sentiment
Port Elizabeth - South Africa has no room to celebrate a final home Test for two of its greatest players as the Springboks aim to seize their last chance to put right a faltering Rugby World Cup run-in with victory over New Zealand in the Tri-Nations.
Lock Victor Matfield will stand in as captain of the Boks in his final appearance at home and regular skipper John Smit features in his last Test in South Africa on the bench.
Both will retire from internationals after their third World Cup but before then South Africa has one more game, against the All Blacks in Port Elizabeth on Saturday, to secure a much-needed first win of the season.
"We need to win, and that's what we'll set out to do," Matfield said on Friday. "The winning is important for many reasons; it will give us confidence and it will bring a greater sense of belief in us from the people in this country. We have huge motivation."
South Africa's unconvincing form has dominated the buildup to the All Blacks game, with little mention given to the farewell for the two 100-Test veterans and mainstays of the Springboks for the last eight years.
Instead, South Africa is facing a winless Tri-Nations campaign for the first time ever and goes up against the on-form All Blacks in its final test before World Cup kickoff.
"I've always admired the All Blacks as a side that one can use to measure yourself against," Matfield said, dismissing thoughts that New Zealand's much-changed lineup will make it easier for the Boks. "This side that they have playing on Saturday may not be their most experienced but it is still an All Blacks side.
"That's the danger. Any All Blacks side can play high-tempo rugby. We have to be up for that and there's no longer place for rustiness."
Matfield did say his final appearance in front of home fans promised to be a memorable clash, with the Springboks and All Blacks meeting in Port Elizabeth for the first time in 41 years and South Africa even more desperate than normal to beat its longtime rugby rival.
"Once that haka is finished it's going to be a fantastic game," Matfield said. "Once you've pulled that jersey over your head you need to show a special effort otherwise we are not worthy of that jersey."