Boks' big boost for B&I Lions series
INTERVIEW: Springbok legend Victor Matfield sees many similarities between the Bok side from 2009 and the current crop of players who will face the British & Irish Lions next year in July and August.
However, Matfield also believes South Africa will be boosted by one big difference from the Bok classes of 2009 and 2021 – continuity.
Chatting in the latest episode of SA Rugby Podcast, Matfield said: “When they came here in 2009, it was the world champions against the Lions, and next year it will be the same again.
“In 2007, we beat England in the Rugby World Cup Final, and the Springboks did it last year too, so I think the build-up to the Test series is going to be amazing.”
On the difference, he added: “Back in 2008, Peter de Villiers took over from Jake White, so we had to take a year to get used to a new way of doing things.
“But with the current team, I think things will stay pretty much the same – they will keep doing the things they’ve done under Rassie [Erasmus], the way they approach the game will be the same and I think the guys will be ready.”
According to Matfield, the influence of the forwards will be vital in determining the winner of the three-Test series.
“Just look at what happened at the World Cup last year – England’s forwards smashed the All Blacks in the semifinal and New Zealand could not play their normal attacking brand, that everyone expected of them, because they got dominated on the gain line,” he added.
“Then England went into the final against us, and their forward pack failed to get the upper hand against our pack – the Springbok forwards actually killed them upfront.
“It just goes to show, once you get the front-foot ball, your forwards will decide the pace of the game and most of the time you will dominate the game as well.
“The Lions will come here with a big, strong pack but we’ve got unbelievable forwards, most of them still pretty young, and they’ve got all the knowledge, so it’s going to be a great series.”
Matfield started in all three games in the 2009 series which the Boks clinched after just the first two Tests before losing the third, which had become a dead rubber.
“A lot of people talk about [how special] World Cups [are] – I played in four World Cups, but I only faced the Lions once, so it’s really a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and something you don’t want to miss,” said Matfield.
“Playing the British & Irish Lions is just huge. Going into that first week, I remember all the media conferences, all the hype and all the talk – they talked themselves up and we got very excited to get stuck into them.
“It was just fantastic playing against them.”
Matfield holds the record for the longest Test career and the most caps for any Springbok with 127 Tests in 14 years and 122 days.
Source: SA Rugby