Saturday 24 February 2018

Matfield confident in strength of Springboks squad

Victor Matfield. Photo: Getty Images
Victor Matfield. Photo: Getty Images

Victor Matfield admits the recent spate of injuries that has struck South Africa is far from ideal, but is adamant the squad has enough depth to overcome Ireland.

The Springboks kick off their Grand Slam tour in Dublin on Saturday.

However, preparations for the world champions have been hampered by late withdrawals and the absence of 13 key players.

Captain Matfield said: "There are a lot of young players coming through as well as in-form players that are in the squad at the moment.

"So, we are looking forward to the challenge and we know it is going to be tough in Ireland.

"But we believe in what we are doing and we believe that we can go out and do well there."

Regular skipper John Smit, Andries Bekker, Fourie du Preez, Butch James, Heinrich Brussow, Gurthro Steekamp and BJ Botha were all ruled out some time ago, while the last two weeks have accounted for Jaque Fourie, Wynand Olivier, JP Pietersen, Ricky Januarie, Juan de Jongh and Schalk Burger.

Added to South Africa's concerns are fitness doubts over Jean de Villiers (groin) and Willem Alberts (calf).

Matfield added: "It is always tough when there are injuries, especially when it is as late as they have been, and we are still waiting for two guys.

"But I still think we have a great squad here."

Peter de Villiers' side have endured a torrid 2010 season thus far in which they have lost five out of 10 Tests - all the defeats coming in the Tri Nations. But Matfield believes the five-week trip to Britain and Ireland presents them with a perfect opportunity to make amends.

"The Tri Nations wasn't good and there are a lot of players who want to go out there and show what they can do and what they still have in them," he said.

"Then there are some old new faces coming in like Bismarck (du Plessis) who can really make a difference and bring some energy into the team.

"We need to be successful on this tour."

The Springboks leave Johannesburg tonight meaning they will only have two days in the Irish capital to prepare for the tour opener.

But Matfield insists it should not be perceived as negative preparation.

He added: "It is going to be cold, but it looks as though it will be dry in Ireland on Saturday.

"I think the guys are used to adapting to different conditions by now. We travel to New Zealand quite often and the conditions there are quite similar to Europe, so the guys are used to it.

"As a team we are happy with the travel arrangements, and if we weren't we would have left a week before the time.

"I think we've done it before with this team. We went to Perth and won that game as well, even though we only travelled through on the Wednesday, so it is not a first time for us.

"There are also no time zones (to pass through), so the guys will sleep on the flight, enjoy a day off the next day and then on Friday it will be the captain's run and the guys will be focused and ready for the game."

After the clash at the Aviva Stadium, the Springboks play Wales in Cardiff followed by matches against Scotland, England and the Barbarians at Twickenham.

Press Association

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