Springbok lock Victor Matfield has marked All Blacks back row Kieran Read as a key figure in Saturday's clash in Wellington.
Veteran Springbok lock Victor Matfield has marked All Blacks back row Kieran Read as a key figure in Saturday's “do-or-die” clash in Wellington.
South Africa need to pull off their first win against the All Blacks on New Zealand soil since 2009 if they are to have any chance of stopping them claiming the southern hemisphere championship for a third successive year.
“It's a big game for us, a do-or-die game for us in this championship,” said Matfield, the most-capped Springbok with 114 Tests to his name, as he described the All Blacks as “the biggest challenge out there”.
The 37-year-old lock said one of the reasons he came out of retirement this year was the attraction of once again facing the reigning world champions, along with having a crack at another World Cup next year.
His mere presence in the Springboks line-up had an influence on how the All Blacks replaced their injured line-out kingpin Sam Whitelock (rib) and blindside flanker Liam Messam (thigh).
With specialist lock Jeremy Thrush covering for Whitelock, the dilemma facing coach Steve Hansen was whether to replace Messam with more height or to start Sam Cane alongside Richie McCaw as two openside flankers.
More height won, with Hansen opting for Steven Luatua and his “aerial skills” as an extra weapon against Matfield rather than trying to counter the Springboks' two openside flankers Francois Louw and Marcell Coetzee.
But Matfield saw the bigger threat from the All Blacks as coming from number eight Read, last year's world player of the year, and his influence at the line-out.
“Kieran Read makes a huge difference,” he said, noting how Read's development as an international has coincided with the rapid improvement of the All Blacks' line-out.
Although the loss of Whitelock would have an impact, “they've still got Kieran Read there,” Matfield said.
“If Kieran Read wasn't there it might be a different fish but with him still there they will still be very strong.”
After falling to Australia 24-23 in Perth last week, the Springboks go into this Test as underdogs, although Matfield said they had high expectations of themselves and recognised the value of toppling the hosts a year out from the World Cup.
“We want to win this game, we want to win the championship,” he said.
“The more you can beat the All Blacks the better because you might face them in a World Cup and we know they are going to the World Cup as favourites.
“There are a few (Springboks) who haven't beaten them so it will be great if we can get in their heads that they're not invincible.”
The All Blacks and Springboks have faced each other in 87 Tests, with the New Zealanders winning 50 and losing 34, while three were drawn.