Lions was special says Matfield

Victor Matfield has reiterated how special it was to beat the Lions as he and his South African team-mates prepare to face the All Blacks this Saturday. [more]

Lions was special says Matfield

Victor Matfield has reiterated how special it was to beat the Lions as he and his South African team-mates prepare to face the All Blacks this Saturday.

Veteran second row Matfield played in all three Tests against Ian McGeechan’s tourists this summer as the Springboks secured a 2-1 series triumph.

The 32-year-old Bulls star was a dominant force in Durban and Pretoria as the Boks raced into an unassailable 2-0 series lead and, although the Lions hit back with a convincing win in Johannesburg, Matfield has nothing but positive memories of a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

"What made the Lions series special was the fact that we play them only once every 12 years," said Matfield, who is still seen as arguably the best lock forward in world rugby.

"You only get to face them once in your career so you want to beat them when you do."

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Having added a victory over the Lions to his long list of achievements, Matfield now turns his attentions to the Tri Nations – a tournament in which success has not flowed so freely for the former Toulon player.

The world champion Boks kick off their 2009 campaign against New Zealand in Bloemfontein this weekend, with Matfield claiming that facing the All Blacks presents the greatest challenge for anyone lucky enough to wear the green and gold of South Africa.

"For any Springbok they are the opponents you most want to play against and most want to beat," added Matfield.

"Everything about our battles with them is special.

"Playing the All Blacks is still just the ultimate, for any Springbok rugby player. Standing there facing the haka – I get goosebumps just thinking about it. It’s just very special."

The Springboks’ have a poor record in the Tri Nations and, despite neither New Zealand or Australia appearing to be on top of their game, Matfield has dismissed any talk of his country entering the competition as favourites.

Instead, he knows the Boks will have to be at their best if they are to win the southern hemisphere’s premier tournament for the first time in five years.

"This is the toughest competition in the world. New Zealand and Australia are the teams you measure yourself against. They are the teams you have to defeat to be number one.

"New Zealand have come to South Africa in recent years and achieved some good wins on the Highveld, but altitude is a factor so we must look to apply continuous pressure.

"In my eight years of playing for the Boks I have won only one Tri-Nations title so it would be nice to get another and that means winning our three home games before travelling to Australasia."

After  this Saturday’s encounter in Vodacom Park, the Boks and All Blacks square off again in Durban a week later, before the Wallabies arrive in Cape Town for the final home leg of South Africa’s campaign.

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