Matfield to be unmasked as a centurion for South Africa

South Africa lock Victor Matfield will celebrate his 100th test appearance in the Tri-Nations encounter against Australia today surrounded by 60,000 familiar faces - all of them his own.

The 33-year-old Springboks vice- captain will become the third player from his country to reach a century of caps when he steps out on his home field of Loftus Versfeld, and his sponsors have ensured the occasion will be marked in unique style.

Masks depicting the bearded lineout specialist will be handed to all spectators arriving at the stadium in Pretoria and Matfield is looking forward to joining skipper John Smit and kicking coach Percy Montgomery as South African test centurions.

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"It will be great to play my 100th test at Loftus, it has been a great place for me. It's like a second home, I have a lot of friends there and I've had some unbelievable times there," Matfield said.

"The team were already wearing some of the masks on the bus, which was a bit scary. It's going to be very special playing at Loftus and with the crowd and the field, hopefully it can inspire us to win because that's what's most important."

New Zealand clinched the Tri- Nations with a 29-22 victory over South Africa in Johannesburg last week and, while Matfield is hoping the hosts can end a run of four straight defeats this weekend, he is already planning a future away from the pitch.

"I think the (2011) World Cup will be the last of me, I'll play no more than that. You can never say never but at the moment that's the decision," Matfield said. "I hope after my playing career that I will keep in the game because this is my passion, rugby is my life," he added.

"I'm still involved with the Boland Rugby Union but I'm not sure I'll go into coaching there immediately, I'll probably stay behind the scenes but make rugby decisions. But I am still playing, so those sort of decisions will only be made next year."

South Africa go into today's match searching for a first win in this year's competition. Matfield said the South African team is "desperate" and "irritated" after four successive losses.

The unexpected losing streak has thrown the reigning world champions off course in the build-up to next year's World Cup, but Matfield, a veteran of two World Cups and a winner in 2007, says they won't panic.

"I think they (New Zealand) are playing very well at the moment but we are happy with what we are doing and where we are going so I don't think we must worry too much about them," Matfield said.

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"Let them run their own race and we will run our own race. We are happy with the things we are doing and the vision we have up to the next World Cup."

Having established himself as the world's best lineout jumper, Matfield will likely be crucial to South Africa's World Cup hopes in 2011 in what will now be his swan song.

But first he says his country must forget past results and get back to winning ways against Australia.

"The Tri-Nations has gone, but you are still playing for your country so the pride is there," he said. "We must put everything behind us. Let's look forward, we can still win the Mandela Cup (against Australia). We can still get things back on track."

The big lock, who made his debut in 2001, said his career highs so far were winning the 2007 World Cup, the series victory over the British and Irish Lions and beating New Zealand in three successive games in 2009. He has also won two Tri-Nations titles, and three Super 14 titles with the Bulls.

He pointed to the 2003 World Cup, where South Africa were knocked out in the quarter-finals in their worst ever showing at a World Cup, as the "worst time." However, he added that he had no regrets about his career.

Team-mates paid tribute to the popular Springbok vice-captain earlier this week.

Winger Bryan Habana said: "Victor is someone that a lot of rugby players worldwide look up to in terms of the standards he sets himself both on and off the pitch. He is someone I have an unbelievable amount of respect for."

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"I think he is in a class of his own," said No 8 Pierre Spies. "He's a great example as a leader and it just shows you why he is regarded as the best lineout lock, and I think he is the best No 5 in the world."

South Africa: F Steyn, JP Pietersen, J Fourie, J de Villiers, B Habana, M Steyn, F Hougaard; G Steenkamp, J Smit (captain), J du Plessis, F van der Merwe, V Matfield, S Burger, J Smith, P Spies. Subs: C Ralepelle, CJ van der Linde, D Rossouw, R Kankowski, R Januarie, B James, J de Jongh.

Australia: K Beale, J O'Connor, A Ashley-Cooper, M Giteau, D Mitchell, Q Cooper, W Genia; B Robinson, S Faingaa, S Ma'afu, D Mumm, N Sharpe, R Elsom (captain), D Pocock, R Brown. Subs: S Moore, J Slipper, B McCalman, S Higginbotham, L Burgess, B Barnes, A Faingaa.