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Matfield's road to the World Cup begins with Ireland

The mindset of Victor Matfield (inset right) is set in stone. This November tour is all about the 2015 World Cup.

It was brought home to the lock with stunning simplicity when Jean de Villiers pointed out how there was exactly one calender year to go to the real day of destiny.

"Jean said it on Saturday that there were 365 days to the final," he remarked.

"This is not an end of year tour. This is the beginning of the year that we want to win the World Cup. This is all focused on the World Cup."

This November itinerary amounts to a dry-run for what will be their return to Europe next September.

"We know these are the conditions we will play in, so it's a great start to a World Cup year for us."

When South Africa snapped a long losing record to New Zealand in the Rugby Championship, it was simply the way it should always be.

"The best thing about the All Blacks is that it is over and done with," he said yesterday.

"This is a new challenge. It is all behind us. It doesn't help to have just one good game.

"We should actually beat the All Blacks every time we play them back home. That's how we see it."

He went on to rank Ireland away as a comparable contest to New Zealand at home.

"We know this is probably going to be just as hard as beating the All Blacks, to beat Ireland here," he stated.

"They are the Six Nations champions. They are a very good side and they've got a team which is really confident. It will be a big battle on Saturday.

Matfield will renew his cat-and-mouse rivalry with Ireland's Paul O'Connell at the lineout. There is obvious reciprocal respect from one to the other.

"As I have said before, he is probably the best player I have played against in my career," he said about Ireland's captain.

Scrum coach Pieter de Villiers would not be drawn into a deep discussion about how Ireland are struggling for bodies at scrum time.

"Ireland have always been a team, in the past, that react very well to pressure situations. They seem to thrive on that and play very well," he said.

"We expect with the difficulty of injuries to react very well to put in a strong performance on Saturday."

The new scrum laws have even given South Africa food for thought.

The way they were annihilated by Argentina in the Rugby Championship forced them to confront their inadequacies there head-on.

"I don't think we can always rely on what we've done in the past," conceded De Villiers. "We've built our own system and took it from there.

"Today, with the new laws, the team that works hard on unit endurance and unit strength and keeping unit shape on the team does well at scrum time."

There is also the timing of the November series to consider. The visitors are towards to end of their season, the Irish are just beginning.

"The northern hemisphere sides are early in their season. Sometimes, in terms of cohesion, it might be more difficult. The southern hemisphere sides might have a bit of end-of-year fatigue.


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