Victor Matfield Hails Paul O’ Connell As “The Best Player I’ve Played Against”

Victor Matfield has hailed Ireland captain Paul O’Connell as “the best player I’ve played against”.

Veteran lock Matfield admits South Africa must be wary of Ireland’s lineout and driving maul in Saturday’s Test at the Aviva Stadium.

The 37-year-old Springbok retired after the 2011 World Cup, but was enticed back after a two-year break, and he believes O’Connell will once again prove central to Ireland’s work in the tight.

“I think he (O’Connell) is a fantastic player, I think he’s probably the best player I’ve played against in my career,” said Matfield.

“He is also a student of the lineout. You can see he puts in a lot of hours in analysing, preparing and getting his whole unit ready for the weekend.

“So it is always tough going up against him.”

Matfield drew on all his 117-cap experience in predicting a gritty tussle up front with Ireland, despite the hosts being without a number of key players through injury.

The wily operator also launched the first charm offensive towards French referee Romain Poite, who will officiate the Dublin contest.

Last season opponents often questioned the legality of Ireland’s highly-effective tactics at stopping rolling mauls. Former forwards coach John Plumtree whipped Ireland’s pack into accurate shape in diffusing opposition mauls, with officials mainly judging them the right side of the laws.

Matfield picked up that theme in making an early call for the Springboks to take care to be water-tight with their own driving game.

“It is always a great battle against Paul and he has some great jumpers with him in that unit so we know it’s going to be very tough.”
Victor Matfield
“I also think when Gert Smal (ex-Ireland forwards coach) was here he gave a lot of insight into how I think about the lineout to Paul, so it makes it more difficult,” said Matfield.

“It is always a great battle against him and he has some great jumpers with him in that unit so we know it’s going to be very tough.

“Like I said, we know we have to be accurate in what we do because they will definitely put pressure on us.

“The rolling maul is very important to us. Looking at them as well, they were very successful in sacking the maul during the Six Nations, especially.

“They stopped it very well, so we know we need to do our things right and hopefully the referee will be very strict on how to stop the maul.

“If we do our things right it is a lot easier for the ref to see if they are stopping the maul legally or not.

“It’s important for us to get our set-up right, to get it started and from then it is easier.”

*Source: Sky Sports

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