The Springboks will depart for New Zealand on Sunday with mission accomplished after completing their third biggest victory over Australia in a 43-12 (halftime 17-5) Castle Lager Rugby Championship victory at Loftus Versfeld.
The 31-point margin of victory has only been eclipsed twice in 93 meetings between the teams (a 53-8 victory in Johannesburg in 2008 and a 61-22 victory also at Loftus in 1997), leaving Springbok assistant coach Mzwandile Stick happy to report that the performance was one the team had desired on which to build – while acknowledging there was room for improvement.
“It gave us a good foundation,” he said. “The Australian side were physical, they gave us a lot of challenges in the game, but when the opportunities came the players had a full go at them.
“There’s a lot of things we can improve on, but we’ll take the result any day. If you had said in the week that we’d have scored 43 points against Australia, we’d have said you were dreaming. But we have something to work on.”
Stick picked out finishing as one of those areas to be improved: “There was a point in the game where we had a lot of entries into Australian 22 and we didn’t convert – and there were couple of line breaks as well – and I think that’s where we need to keep on improving.
“We have to make sure we convert those into points – when we play against the All Blacks and Argentina, we’re not going to get ten opportunities; we’re only get four or five and you need to convert them.”
He also said that the style of play did not represent a new departure so much as an evolution: “We don’t call it expansive, like we have always said, if we create opportunities the guys have the freedom to exploit them.
“We were just happy with how we executed our game plan and once again if it wasn’t for the way we defended early in the game those opportunities wouldn’t have come later.
“The most important thing for us is to keep improving as a team. It’s a World Cup year and everyone is focusing on it, but we want to make sure we keep building and to have a start like this – even though there is a lot of room for improvement – is something we can work on.
“We’re really happy with the manner in which we won this game because Australia came and they were physical – but credit to the our players they played for 80 minutes.”
Springbok captain Duane Vermeulen was all smiles as he reflected on the performance.
“It was a special performance and it’s a special group of guys,” he said. “It’s not just the players, it’s the coaches and the management – everyone – someday it will all come to an end and you know you’ve just got to enjoy every single minute and second of it.
“Australia fetched a big pack and we are still a bit rusty with things we can work on – scrum wise with a couple of free kicks and penalty against us – but later on as we went on in the game we found our feet and we grew really in confidence. That’s some of the things we are happy about, but it’s test match rugby and you’ve got to be on song from the start and you can’t ease into the game.”
Vermeulen said the team was powered to victory by the 50 000-strong crowd and that he hoped the team’s send off at the end of the month against Argentina at Emirates Airline Park would be similarly inspiring.
“It was fantastic coming out seeing the support,” he said, “from singing the anthem onwards and every single player at every scrum, lineout we could hear the people and it’s that extra energy and like having a 16th man on the field – it really pushed us through.
“Before we go to the World Cup when we play our last match at Emirates Airline Park, it would be tremendous to have a full stadium again. We had a chat to the CEO of the Bulls and he said they could have sold out the stadium about three times for today’s test.
“The support we have in South Africa is phenomenal and from our side we’d just like to say ‘thank you’ to every single person who was out there – it really is fantastic.”