Springbok coach Jake White wore the face of a relieved man after watching his team pull off a hard-fought win over the Wallabies at Ellis Park on Saturday afternoon.
White was far from elated at the Boks second win in a week as much hard work lies ahead if they are to build on their recent form in the next 12 months leading up to the Rugby World Cup.
There were no big smiles, but rather the stern look of introspection that comes with the realisation that they are far from good enough – at this stage – to threaten at the World Cup in France next year.
“It’s been a difficult time and again as I’ve said before we are thankful to everybody for putting in the effort. The captain has been under pressure so again, you know there is a lot to be learnt out of what we have achieved in the last two weeks,” White told reporters.
White and captain John Smit, who both attended the post match press conference, looked like they were in serious need of a break. It has been a Tri-Nations campaign that has taken much out of the players and management.
“Anyone who has ever been involved with this team will tell you that it is difficult once you get into a downward spiral. If you look at history what usually happens is players fall apart and the whole thing goes pearshaped so again just the way the management and everyone has stuck to their task deserves to be complimented.”
“At the end of three weeks of playing New Zealand, New Zealand, Australia and then to score 21 points in the second half of the last game, again just shows the step up we have made in the last two weeks.”
Smit has led from the front in the home leg and has been able to take a lot away from the experience in the Tri-Nations this year.
“It has certainly been educational,â€ he said. â€œWe started the Tri-Nations in a terrible way and when we were overseas I would lie in bed sometimes and think: ‘this could all go terribly wrong’â€.
â€œBut in the next year when we are facing challenges, we will have a lot of perspective and will be able to think back to how well we did to get out of the five-game slump.”
By Andrew Hollely, at Ellis Park Stadium