Springbok captain Victor Matfield on Friday called for an improvement in all facets of play for the return match against Argentina in Buenos Aires on Saturday evening (SA time). The Boks lost to Los Pumas in Durban last weekend and Matfield, who will lead the side at Vélez Sarsfield on Saturday, said accuracy will be key: ‘Most of their players play in the tough European leagues where they compete for everything and we saw last week that it will be a long day at the office if we’re not accurate in our execution. The Pumas deserve a lot of credit for that performance, but we’re a proud team and we don’t like losing, especially at home, so we have to make a big step up on Saturday. There were some hard words spoken this week because we let ourselves and our country down, and we want to rectify that tomorrow. But we know it will be very tough against a very good Argentinean team, and we need to make sure we improve in all facets of the game, starting with the scrum and breakdown battle.’
Matfield is one of three Springboks who played for South Africa against Argentina the last time the two teams met at the same venue in Buenos Aires. The other two are Schalk Burger and Bryan Habana, while Juan Martin Hernández and Juan-Manuel Leguizamón are the two Pumas from that match who are in action again tomorrow. On that occasion, the Boks won 34-23, with both sides scoring three tries each.
Matfield says: ‘It’s great to be back here and we like coming to Argentina. Ultimately though it’s not about me or any other individuals in the team – we have to ensure that all the players contribute to the team so that we can put in a good Springbok performance. Against Australia and New Zealand we did enough to win, but we didn’t close out those games. We have to improve on that as well. But what we’ve seen is that you have to be at 100% against any team in the top nine in the world, because the margins are small and you can easily be beaten.’
Matfield also said the criticism of the team stung in a tough week for the Boks: ‘Mr Nelson Mandela once said that sport can unite a country and we certainly want to make our country proud. It was great to see the entire country behind the Boks when we won the World Cup in 2007 and that is our aim again for this season. We accept full responsibility for what happened on the field last weekend, but it’s just a pity if the team is used by some as political object to pull the country down (sic). Our goal is to unite the country behind us.’
Photo credit: Prensa UAR