South African Rugby
Boks have no excuses - Matfield
ESPNscrum Staff
October 25, 2010
South Africa's Victor Matfield salutes the Loftus Versfeld crowd, South Africa v Australia, Tri-Nations, Loftus Versfeld, South Africa, August 28, 2010
Victor Matfield is desperate to transform South Africa's fortunes on their tour of the northern hemisphere © Getty Images

Victor Matfield insists South Africa have no excuses this autumn as they look to put a nightmare season behind them and end the year with success on the Grand Slam tour, which starts next week.

The Springboks have endured a torrid 2010 losing five out of 10 Tests - all in the Tri Nations, where they also turned in their worst performance since the tournament's inception.

"The reality is that we did not perform as well as we could this year and did not meet expectations," the Bulls lock, who will captain the team in the absence of John Smit, said. "We have to put that right and I'm confident that we can do it.

"The nice thing about this tour is that quite a few of the guys have not played a lot of rugby. We've got no excuses of being tired this time; we've just got to get our heads right and do the job."

Regular skipper Smit recently underwent back surgery and is amongst a host of high-profile players that will be absent for the world champions. Also out are JP Pietersen, Jaque Fourie, Wynand Olivier, Fourie du Preez, Andries Bekker, Heinrich Brussow, Gurthro Steenkamp and Gary Botha.

The team's showing this year has also put pressure on coach Peter de Villiers, who responded by naming 10 uncapped players in a preliminary group that assembled in Johannesburg over the weekend. That initial squad of 39 - which has lost a few players along the way through injury - will be cut to an expected 30 when the list is finalised after the Currie Cup final on Saturday.

Matfield, who will be leading the Springboks for the first time on a full tour, said: "The get-together was good to be able to achieve unity of purpose. I know it's difficult for the Sharks and Western Province players, who still have to play the Currie Cup final on Saturday, but I was impressed with the willingness and commitment of the players during the team and field sessions."

As for the added burden of captaincy, he continued in The Times: "It is a bit more responsibility for me. I have to get more involved in more off-the-field stuff, so it's a bit more pressure."

South Africa's trip starts with a meeting with Ireland on November 6 and also takes in Tests against Wales, Scotland and England and the Barbarians at Twickenham. They have not beaten the Irish in Dublin since 2004 and the veteran forward added: "We must leave all the history behind and do what's expected of us.

"We just have to focus and use the positive energy we have in the group. Every game is important, as is the World Cup, but our focus must not only be on the World Cup. We've got Ireland, and we must focus on that and try to get a new winning momentum going."

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

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