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Botha & Matfield brush off McBride & O’Connell


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Victor Matfield and Bakkies Botha, the towering lock forwards who have become the driving force in the South African World Cup-winning pack, brushed off suggestions Wednesday that they will be dominated by British and Irish Lions captain Paul O’Connell in the upcoming test series.

At a news conference ahead of the first Springboks training session, they were asked to react to comments by 1974 Lions captain Willie John McBride that second row O’Connell would “boss” Matfield around in the scrums, lineouts, rucks and mauls.

While not exactly laughing off the reported comments of the hugely respected McBride, the two South African locks said that the proof of who would dominate whom would be found on the field in the three-test series starting in Durban on June the 20th.

“He’s a great player, Paul,” said Matfield, a veteran of 80 Springboks appearances.

“He’s their captain and I see in the papers this week he had a lot to say to the South African locks when Bakkies and myself didn’t play.

“We will have to see if he has a lot to say to us as well. It’s going to be a good battle but we will only know after the three tests who’s bossing who around.” Botha said that McBride’s pre-test bravado would only motivate him even more.

“Boss around, when you said those words, that’s my game,” he said.

“Definitely it’s going to be a big challenge who’s going to be the (Lions lock forward) combination with O’Connell. He’s a good leader and a good player as well so to measure ourselves against two of the best locks in the world it’s just a new challenge for me and Victor.”

“We’re not finished yet. We are preparing ourselves to go higher and higher. It’s a brand new challenge for us and it’s a big one and we are going to grab it with both hands.”

The seasoned Bulls second row pair have become a formidable duo in a Springbok pack which sets out to bully their opponents.

Now they have a new challenge in the form of the four-nation Lions even though they have faced their opponents as individuals with their clubs or playing against Ireland, Wales, England and Scotland, who make up the Lions squad.

As Lions captain, O’Connell seems certain to play in the test series and the question is who plays alongside him in the second row. Alun-Wyn Jones of Wales, Ireland’s Donncha O’Callaghan, Nathan Hines of Scotland and England’s Simon Shaw are the alternatives.

“It’s a very good Lions pack and back line so we will watch tonight at the game and see what comes out,” Botha said in reference to the Lions’ fourth tour game against the Sharks in Durban.

He said he was age 17 when the Lions last toured South Africa in 1997 and upset the world champion Springboks 2-1.

“The results from ’97 are a big motivation for us,” he said.

“We know that to be running out against the British Lions is a big contest for us.

“We never underestimate the squad and we will go out and do whatever worked for us the last couple of years and just give it all.”

“We will go onto the field as a family and play 100 percent to our potential.”

Botha said that beating the Lions was not far behind winning the World Cup and many of the Springboks stars who won that tournament two years ago had been driven on by the thought of the side coming to South Africa.

“Some guys say the World Cup is enough but that’s why I see a lot of difference in this squad,” he said.

“Each day we get together in training we’re just pushing each other to new limits.

“After the World Cup the guys knew that the British and Irish Lions  would come across to South Africa so it’s a big challenge for us.”

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