‘There will be no excuses’

2010-11-03 00:00

VICTOR Matfield, the Springboks’ caretaker captain, put on a brave face yesterday as he looked ahead to Saturday’s crunch Test against the hungry Irish in Dublin.

The Boks, hit by injury and withdrawals of key players, disrupted by change and short of preparation, only arrive in Dublin tomorrow, but Matfield said there will be no excuses.

“It is not easy, but we are international players and we need to be ready to adapt and take it as it comes,” he said.

Three selected players, Ricky Januarie, Juan de Jongh and Schalk Burger, have already withdrawn from the tour, while centre Jean de Villiers (groin) and flank Willem Alberts (calf) have not trained this week and are in doubt. This has left the Boks without 13 of their first-choice players for the tour.

Matfield did concede that withdrawals and injuries had disrupted practices, but he was looking to the depth in the squad to cover the cracks.

“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. There are a lot of young players coming through as well as in-form players that are in the squad at the moment,” said Matfield, who has taken over from the sidelined hooker John Smit as captain.

The Boks are at their most vulnerable at centre and the loss of De Villiers would leave them without a specialist centre to partner the underdone Adi Jacobs in midfield.

Matfield, who will equal John Smit’s record for the most Tests (102) by a Springbok forward, said the players are looking forward to Saturday and the Dublin Test.

“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,” he said.

He also deflected criticism of the Boks’ late departure.

“I think we’ve done it before with this team. We went to Perth and won that game as well when we only travelled through on the Wednesday. It is not a first time for us and there are also no time zones, 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.”

Sharks tighthead prop Jannie du Plessis agreed that injuries would not impact on the individual members of the team.

“I don’t think the guys worry about who is going to be picked or not. I think we get on to the training field and do our jobs as good as we can regardless of who plays, because we know that whoever comes in is still going to wear a Springbok jersey and was playing good rugby when he was selected.”

“All of us have our own jobs and we are just focusing on that.”

Bok coach Peter de Villiers, under intense pressure to produce a winning end to a disappointing year, said the fallout from the Currie Cup final has made his job more difficult.

“It’s definitely not a good thing to come here with your hopes high about the tour and then to get these injuries. We are just happy to have the replacements we do, because they are good players as well.”

He said plans need to be made to ensure all the senior Springboks are available for the World Cup next year.

“We can’t even practise full-out, but I’m used to the fact that national duty always comes second in this country.

“We wanted to manage the players better on this tour and we planned for the first game, but now we have to make the best of a bad situation,” De Villiers said.

While the Boks have a serious midfield problem, the Irish have been lifted by the news that their world-class centre and captain, Brian O’Driscoll, has been cleared for Saturday’s Test.

The Ireland centre had been sidelined for almost a month with a hamstring injury.

The Irish backline will field five players who toured South Africa with the British & Irish Lions last year, but Ronan O’Gara has to settle for a place on the bench with Jonny Sexton preferred at flyhalf.

Ireland: 15. Robert Kearney, 14. Tommy Bowe, 13. Brian O’Driscoll (c), 12. Gordon D’Arcy, 11. Luke Fitzgerald, 10. Jonathan Sexton, 9. Eoin Reddan, 1. Cian Healy, 2. Rory Best, 3. Tony Buckley, 4. Donncha O’Callaghan, 5. Mick O’Driscoll, 6. Stephen Ferris, 7. David Wallace, 8. Jamie Heaslip.

Replacements: 16. Sean Cronin, 17. Tom Court, 18. Donnacha Ryan, 19. Denis Leamy, 20. Peter Stringer, 21. Ronan O’Gara, 22. Keith Earls.

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