South Africa must dominate Ireland's forwards if the Tri Nations winners are to beat the Six Nations champions in Dublin today, according to Victor Matfield. When the Springboks lost 20-13 to France earlier this month, much was made of the fact the tourists were, for once, second best in the physical battle. And that is something which the lock wants to readdress at Croke Park.
He said: "We like to dominate teams and we didn't do that against France. They beat us with a great workrate. It was better than ours and that's why we lost. "I feel this week our workrate will be up. That's meeting rucks with numbers, three or four at a time, really shifting at the contact area." But while the game is being hyped around the meeting of the northern and southern hemisphere champions, Matfield has played the confrontation down.
"It's definitely not an unofficial World Cup title, or anything like that, it's just another test we want to win," he said. Meanwhile, Ireland's Tommy Bowe said the match is a chance for those players beaten 2-1 by the Boks while playing for the British and Irish Lions this summer to gain revenge for that defeat. "I really enjoyed the summer with the Lions. It's a rare opportunity to get as a player," said the Ospreys winger. "There's a big feeling of loss after leaving behind the Test series - there's huge disappointment there. This is a chance for us to get our own back so it's up to us to put in a big performance.
"The match has been billed as the best of the northern hemisphere against the best of the southern and has been built up over the past couple of weeks. For us to finish our season unbeaten will be huge. I've no doubt South Africa are very worried about this Test." Earlier in the week, Springboks coach Peter de Villiers described the Lions as "the Irish team camouflaged in red jerseys". "The Australians and a lot of the southern hemisphere teams coming here said that we are the team they want to play against," added Bowe. Ireland began their autumn series by drawing 20-20 with Australia and went on to blow away any lingering cobwebs by thumping an under-strength Fiji 41-6.
Both teams seem to agree that the Ireland coach Declan Kidney's decision to start Jonathan Sexton at fly-half ahead of the vastly experienced Ronan O'Gara will be a deciding factor in the game. Sexton, 24, will win just his second cap after impressing against Fiji. "Jonny will have no problem. He showed at the weekend that he has a very calm head," said Bowe. "To step into an international match and play the way he did is credit to him. I expect he'll do the same against South Africa. He likes to move the ball about so hopefully I'll be on the end of some of those passes."
But Matfield was shocked by Sexton's inclusion. "He must be a great player because it is a big step for Ireland to leave out a guy like Ronan O'Gara," said the 32-year-old vice-captain. And Matfield is looking forward to renewing his second-row rivalry with Paul O'Connell, who captained the Lions in the summer. "It's going to be another tough match up between two great second-row pairings," he said. "I think Paul can do everything. In the modern lock you normally get an athletic or the more physical guy. He does both. He's very good in the line-outs, he gets stuck in, and does a lot of ball carrying. He's very tough to play against."
* PA Sport Ireland v South Africa, KO 6.30pm, Showsports 3