Two giants of the modern game go head-to-head for lineout supremacy in Dublin on Saturday, writes BRENTON CHELIN.
Victor Matfield's standing in world rugby is beyond compare. He's won all there is to win, and still his thirst for success goes unquenched. Many questioned his return to rugby at the beginning of the year – rugby is a young man's game after all.
However, he has shown that notion to be ill-informed. At 37, he has reclaimed his place in the Springbok team, where he has been reunited with Heyneke Meyer. His performances during the Rugby Championship showed his enduring importance to the Boks' success. His tactical nous at the lineout remains unrivalled and he'll need to be at his best if the Boks are to maintain their unbeaten run in the northern hemisphere during Meyer's reign.
His opposite number on Saturday is a legend in his own right. Having captained the British & Irish Lions during their tour to South Africa in 2009, O'Connell is well aware of the skills that Matfield possesses. In fact, the Irish captain has faced off against Matfield seven times, with the South African holding a slim 4-3 advantage.
Their last meeting came back in 2009, where O'Connell outwitted Matfield at Croke Park, with a little help from Gert Smal. South Africa's lineout operated at just 74% that day, and the Irish capitalised to inflict a 15-10 loss on the No 1-ranked side in the world.
O'Connell retains the ability to dismantle the Bok lineout, and in turn, their meticulous game plan. Saturday's meeting could well be the last between these two players on the international stage, so let us sit back and enjoy the duel.
Photos: Marty Melville/Xavier Laine/AFP Photo/Getty Images