South Africa Rugby
Matfield talks up Springboks' chances
June 2, 2009
Springboks coach Peter de Villiers shares a joke with lock Victor Matfield during yesterday's squad announcement © Getty Images
Springboks stalwart Victor Matfield believes uncapped fly-half Morne Steyn can make the step up to the international stage.
The Bulls No.10 was a key figure in his side's charge to Super 14 glory and with rival Ruan Pienaar struggling to be fit he is in line to make his debut in the first Test against the British & Irish Lions on June 20.
Steyn was one of two uncapped players - the other being Golden Lions full-back Earl Rose - named by national coach Peter de Villiers in his 28-man squad yesterday and, with regular number 10 Ruan Pienaar facing a race against time to be fit, Matfield believes his provincial team-mate could be an important part of the team.
"We're very happy for Morne," he said. "He really played well at the Bulls and had a big, big contribution to what we've done at the end there."
Coach De Villiers agreed, saying: "Morne Steyn earned his spot by performing week in, week out, he had an outstanding Super 14. "If we can maintain the form shown by the Blue Bulls, even 20 percent less, then we will be unbeatable."
But Matfield does not believe that Steyn's inclusion in the starting XV is a foregone conclusion. "He will still have to perform well to get that starting spot. A guy like Ruan was very good at the end-of-year tour last year. So it's great that there's competition. Everyone is pressed by someone and the more the competition, the better the guys will play."
The team, which will be led by veteran captain John Smit, includes 10 players from the Bulls' victorious Super 14 squad and 25 members of the party that toured Wales, Scotland and England at the end of last year. It also includes prop Deon Carstens and centre Wynand Olivier, both of whom last played for the national team in 2007.
Olivier was another key player for the Super 14 champions, but the skipper Matfield brushed aside suggestions that players from his Bulls side will suffer from fatigue.
"It's been a tough 14-15 weeks, but we have a little break now. We're going away after tonight, we got a little break, which is 10 days off and then join up with the squad again on Tuesday," he added. "So we'll go away and relax a little bit and when we do get back together, I'm sure the focus will be there. It's such a big thing this whole Lions tour, so we'll quickly forget about all the sore body parts and just get on with it.
"Look, we're all really excited now. The Lions are really going to be tough, but we have an awesome team with a lot of experience, so it should all bode well for us."
South Africa squad:
Forwards: John Smit - Sharks (81) - Captain, Victor Matfield -Blue Bulls (80) -Vice-Captain, Andries Bekker - Western Province (13), Bakkies Botha -Blue Bulls (55), Schalk Burger - Western Province (49), Deon Carstens -Sharks (7), Bismarck du Plessis - Sharks (21), Ryan Kankowski - Sharks (7), Tendai Mtawarira - Sharks (10), Chiliboy Ralepelle - Blue Bulls (3), Danie Rossouw - Blue Bulls (36), Juan Smith - Cheetahs (54), Pierre Spies - Blue Bulls (19), Gurthrö Steenkamp - Blue Bulls
Backs: Jean de Villiers - Western Province (46), Fourie du Preez - Blue Bulls (43), Jaque Fourie - Lions (42), Bryan Habana - Blue Bulls (46), Adi Jacobs - Sharks (21), Ricky Januarie - Western Province (34), Odwa Ndungane - Sharks (3), Jongi Nokwe - Cheetahs (3), Wynand Olivier - Blue Bulls (21), Ruan Pienaar - Sharks (27), JP Pietersen - Sharks (24), Earl Rose - Lions (uncapped), Frans Steyn - Sharks (27), Morné Steyn - Blue Bulls (uncapped).