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Matfield, Botha battling injuries at World Cup

 South African rugby player Morne Steyn, left, avoids a tackle from teammates during their training at the Rugby League in Wellington, New Zealand, We...
 South Africa's Bismarck du Plessis, top, aids teammate Tendai Mtawarira, bottom, as he loses balance during their training in Wellington, New Zealand...
 South African rugby player Tendai Mtawarira, left, and captain John Smit in action during their training session in Wellington, New Zealand, Wednesda...
 South African rugby player Morne Steyn, left, jokes with captain John Smit during their training in Wellington, New Zealand, Wednesday Sept. 7, 2011....
 South Africa's Bismarck du Plessis, top, aids teammate Tendai Mtawarira, bottom, after losing balance during a training session in Wellington, New Ze...

New Zealand WCup Rugby World Cup South Africa

South African rugby player Morne Steyn, left, avoids a tackle from teammates during their training at the Rugby League in Wellington, New Zealand, We...

New Zealand WCup Rugby World Cup South Africa

South Africa's Bismarck du Plessis, top, aids teammate Tendai Mtawarira, bottom, as he loses balance during their training in Wellington, New Zealand...

New Zealand WCup Rugby World Cup South Africa

South African rugby player Tendai Mtawarira, left, and captain John Smit in action during their training session in Wellington, New Zealand, Wednesda...

New Zealand WCup Rugby World Cup South Africa

South African rugby player Morne Steyn, left, jokes with captain John Smit during their training in Wellington, New Zealand, Wednesday Sept. 7, 2011....

New Zealand WCup Rugby World Cup South Africa

South Africa's Bismarck du Plessis, top, aids teammate Tendai Mtawarira, bottom, after losing balance during a training session in Wellington, New Ze...

Defending champions South Africa may go into its opening match at the Rugby World Cup without either member of its world-record locking partnership.
Victor Matfield told a news conference he has a hamstring strain and is hopeful but not certain to play against Wales on Sunday while it is increasingly unlikely Bakkies Botha, his partner in a record 62 tests, will take the field.
He told reporters on Wednesday "we're still rehabilitating it (the hamstring). We'll have a look on Friday but we believe I'll be able to play.
"I don't know if he (Botha) will be ready for Sunday but hopefully he'll be ready for next week. He's working very hard in the gym and I think they're making a call on him on Friday as well."
Wales forwards coach Robin McBryde said the loss of Botha would be a blow to the Springboks.
"Definitely, I think it will be a loss to them if he's not fit because of the type of player he is," McBryde said. "He's part of a very settled front-five unit. Obviously he works well with Matfield in the second row.
"He's a very physical player, a very confrontational player. I'm sure some of the guys who played for the British Lions on their last tour are very aware of that and they're looking forward to locking horns with him again."
Matfield expressed some of the nervousness of a Springboks team that has waited four years to defend its world title, the long and methodic buildup is almost over and he now cannot wait for the World Cup to begin.
If he plays on Sunday, Matfield will extend his record of test appearances for South Africa to 108, remaining one ahead of captain John Smit.
Even with that vast body of experience, Matfield was feeling the tension.
"We're just all focusing on this first game and it's a very long week this," he said. "We can't get into the game (fast enough) and I'm sure everyone just wants to get into the games. The World Cup is the biggest stage you can play on as a rugby player, so there will be a little bit of extra nerves. But, again, every team has got that and it's all about how you handle that.
"I think preparation is very important. I think we just want to get to the game, get into it and I think everything will fall into place."
Matfield said Wales will be a tough opponent in a tough pool. He expects Fiji and Samoa to also press the Springboks but said Wales posed specific challenges.
"I think we all know they do a very hard, pressing defense and that with it comes they compete very hard at ruck time," he said. "In their last game against England, England clearly struggled to get any quick ruck ball, so that's something we've been focusing on and we're targeting the breakdown. We need to be accurate and we also have to talk to the ref to see what we can do their to keep them within the laws."
Matfield suggested the Springboks may enjoy something of a home-field advantage, having experienced conditions in Wellington more often than Wales.
"We play here more than them with the Super rugby and the Tri-Nations and everything," he said. "It's a very difficult stadium, especially for the kickers. The wind is very tough in the stadium. Even if you know it, it's hard to get used to it, so it's something both teams will have to adapt to."


Updated : 2021-02-27 19:08 GMT+08:00