Springbok legends here to stay

Bakkies Botha and Victor Matfield will play their 50th test as a lock combination on Saturday and they hope their partnership continues to the 2011 Rugby World Cup.

In 2002, the pair first played alongside each other in the green and gold. Seven years later, they have formed the core of a Springbok pack that has dominated on the international scene.

Although the moment is one to be proud of, Botha is adamant that they won’t lose focus of what the team wants to achieve at Newlands against the Wallabies.

‘For any combination, the 50th Test is a big moment,’ Botha told keo.co.za, ‘but at the end of the day, it’s not about setting records.

‘Victor and I want to make a difference on the pitch and bring our goods to the game because that’s what it is all about. It’s a big honour but we are focusing as a team.

‘Although 50 Tests is a milestone, it’s just another day at the office.’

James Horwill and Nathan Sharpe will be their opposite numbers in the Wallabies line-up and Botha says they will be prepared for the lock battle.

‘They are definitely a good combination as well and they will make it tough for us, but that’s what Test rugby is all about. One has to push your opponents to their limits.

‘It will be competitive in the lineouts and the breakdowns but we will give it our all,’ said Botha.

It is always hard to find the perfect lock combination, but Matfield and Botha have proved to be a fine example. They might have completely different strengths and abilities, but together they are the best there is.

‘There is no need for Victor to clean because I clean for two,’ Botha quipped, ‘but as a combination I think we are perfect because the things I do well and the things he does well complement each other.

‘Its been a privilege to play along side him and it’s amazing what calmness he brings to the team, especially at lineout time.’

Matfield also praised Botha for his contribution he brings during game time.

‘Although he’s very excited on the field, he’s very relaxed before the whistle has blown,’ said Matfield. ‘There’s a big difference when he’s not playing, because he’s very hard working and he takes the whole pack forward.’

After playing seven years together, one will say their careers are coming to an end, but Botha hopes to make it to the 2011 Rugby World Cup together.

‘We haven’t got any long-term goals at this stage, but hopefully God will bless us with an opportunity to play at the World Cup.’ said Botha.

Matfield agreed with his lock partner.

‘Yes, the 2011 World Cup will definitely be a goal for us, but the Tri-Nations is the main objective right now and we will take it from there. Bakkies and I got married the same weekend, our kids are a few months apart and we hope to retire at the same time. So I will push Bakkies when he wants to go.’

By Gareth Duncan, in Cape Town