Victor Matfield says Bakkies Botha will hold nothing back when the two Springbok legends clash at Newlands on Saturday. JON CARDINELLI reports.
Matfield and Botha hold the record for the most Tests as a second-row combination (63). Between 2002 and 2011, they won two Tri-Nations trophies, the 2009 Test series against the British & Irish Lions, as well as the 2007 World Cup with South Africa. That partnership also secured three Vodacom Super Rugby trophies as well as three Currie Cup titles with the Bulls.
The off-field bromance between Matfield and Botha has been as well documented as their deeds on the pitch. Matfield has often spoken about a deep respect and affection for Botha. Botha has said the same of Matfield. Nobody thought there would ever come a day when the two would face off on the field of play.
Until now. The Boks and World XV fixture will not be as serious as a Test match, but it will serve up an interesting clash between two old mates. Matfield reveals that a lot has changed since the last time they met in a provincial game some 17 years ago.
At that stage, Botha was just 19, 105kg, and playing in the back row for the Valke. Matfield, then at Griquas, was a couple of years older, and 15kg heavier.
The Bok lock laughs when he recalls that match-up and how much things have changed over the past two decades. Botha, of course, now crushes the scales at 120kg. Matfield is slimmer at 110kg.
‘It’s going to be a very interesting contest this Saturday,’ Matfield said. ‘We’ve been through so much since that game. It was a very special combination, and we’ve become great friends. Even our wives and kids have become great friends.
‘I can’t wait to walk out there on Saturday and do the toss with Bakkies. But while we are friends, I know that won’t change anything when we get onto the field. I’m expecting things to be physical. Nobody will be holding anything back.’
The lineouts should also be a point of interest. Matfield said that Botha and other members of the World XV squad will have a good idea of what to expect at this set piece.
‘In a sense, it’s tough for us to prepare for that, because the World XV aren’t a side that has played together before. You don’t really know what to expect.
‘Maybe they will think they know more about us, given all the games Bakkies and I played together. Maybe Bakkies will just look at me when we get to a lineout and know what I’m thinking. I’ve also played a lot of rugby with Flip van der Merwe at the Bulls over the years. So it will be interesting.’
With regards to the Boks’ goals in this match, Matfield said the team is looking to make a statement with its intensity.
‘We’ve worked hard on the fitness levels. We’ve trained especially hard over the past week. This game is very important. We have to get our attitude right, and show the right intensity. We need to work hard to overcome the rustiness.’
Photo: Duif du Toit/Gallo Images