Rugby Championship

Matfield: Boks need to be clinical

2014-10-01 23:15
Victor Matfield (Gallo Images)

Johannesburg - Springbok stalwart Victor Matfield believes South Africa needs to close down crucial moments if they want to bring New Zealand's unbeaten record of 21 victories to an end in their Rugby Championship in Johannesburg on Saturday.

"It is just about the focus in those critical moments. It is always going to be a close game against these guys. One or two critical moments will decide these games," Matfield said on Wednesday.

"It is something we are working on...just that belief in the team, even if you are five points down with five minutes to go to - keep to the structure."

The All Blacks have lost only lost once in 35 Tests since they were crowned World Champions in 2011 on home soil -- a 38-21 defeat to England at Twickenham in December 2012.

Matfield believed New Zealand's ability to win close matches set them apart from the rest of the world.

"They're pulling off the big moments in games. If you look throughout the year, there were two or three Tests they could have lost but they came through and that probably shows the character they've got in the team," he said.

"Belief is a funny thing. The more you win it becomes a habit, and it is a habit with them. they've only lost one game in 42 matches which is unbelievable.

"It is just a habit for them to win and they know how to pull through tough games as well."

Matfield was confident South Africa were closing the gap on the world champions.

Although the Boks came too close for comfort in their 31-30 victory over Wales in Nelspruit in June and both matches against Argentina home and away, Matfield believed the side demonstrated the kind of character that was needed against the All Blacks.

"Heyneke talks a lot about character in a team, which also comes with leadership. You always get one or two vital moments in a game and you have to take them to win games," he said.

"We've done it twice this year, while we came through over the weekend as well.

"I thought we had the opportunities in both games overseas to do it as well and unfortunately we didn't use it."

Matfield, who made his return to the national side during the June internationals after a two-year retirement, said there was a clear shift towards a running mindset in Springbok rugby.

"It is something they already started with last year, if you look at the stats, we are the team with the most tries, even more than the All Blacks per game," he said.

"We have an attacking mindset. It is just about the conditions. This year so far it has been tough.

"This is a game about decision-making, and if you've got the right guys making the right decisions then you can play a certain type of game."

For the Boks to play the expansive game Meyer had envisioned, a lot of emphasis had been placed on conditioning.

Matfield said while the players had made serious improvements in terms of fitness, supporters could expect a better-conditioned side by next year's World Cup in England.

"There's been a big shift for the guys to be leaner and lighter, but knowing Heyneke, he needs the guys for six weeks, and next year when we get to the World Cup you will see a leaner and meaner team."

Teams:

South Africa:

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

Substitutes: 16 Adriaan Strauss, 17 Trevor Nyakane, 18 Marcel van der Merwe, 19 Bakkies Botha, 20 Schalk Burger, 21 Cobus Reinach, 22 Pat Lambie, 23 JP Pietersen

New Zealand:

TBA

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