Matfield wary of wounded Lions

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The Independent Online

Victor Matfield has hailed the British and Irish Lions' "character" after their gripping first Test fightback against South Africa.

And Springboks lock Matfield expects another fierce encounter when the teams lock horns again at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria next Saturday, a ground where South Africa boast a 71 per cent success-rate.

The stakes will he higher than in Durban yesterday, with South Africa knowing victory would secure Test series glory one game inside the distance, while the Lions must win to set up a Johannesburg decider seven days later.

The Lions' 26-21 Durban defeat means they have now gone seven Tests without success, a series of results stretching back to Australia in 2001.

The prospect of a second whitewash in a row following their 3-0 drubbing at New Zealand's hands four years ago cannot be discounted - but Matfield is braced for a punishing battle.

"It's going to be tougher next week, definitely," he said. "We will have to focus more and work harder.

"I think they will take a lot of confidence out of their second-half performance, and they will feel they can play much better."

It looked bleak for the Lions at 26-7 adrift, but late converted tries by flanker Tom Croft - his second of the game - and scrum-half Mike Phillips set up a pulsating finale.

Matfield added: "We made silly mistakes, letting them into our half and giving them opportunities, but also they kept the ball very well and they put us under pressure.

"The Lions weren't going to lie down and let us get a big victory. They fought back, and with seconds to go they were still in the game and could still have won it.

"That shows their character, and for us to play against them was a brilliant experience.

"I don't think we were too good. We are happy with the win, but we can play much better."

In claiming victory, South Africa also dismissed any fears of the Lions mangling them at scrum-time.

The tourists were expected to hold up well in that critical set-piece department, but it was South Africa that prospered through their front-row of Tendai "The Beast" Mtawarira, Bismarck du Plessis and skipper John Smit.

"We were under a lot of pressure in the media about the scrum, especially (skipper) John (Smit), but he stood up and showed he is going to be an anchor there for us for many years to come," said Matfield.

"And 'The Beast' has been brilliant for us in the last year or so, with his scrummaging and all-round play.

"There had also been a lot of comments in the media about the lineouts, and we were pretty happy with how it went. We put them under pressure."

For his part, Smit warned the Springboks will need to raise their game again, claiming: "The Lions won't lie down. They will come back twice as strong.

"Both teams are fighting - one to finish and one to survive - so the pressure will be twice as big next week."