Jake White says having achieved their primary goal of a series win the Springboks can now look to building on the momentum gained as they move forward in this all important season.
The Bok coach dismissed talk that the series win was relatively inconsequential given that England will field a significantly stronger team for their pool game at the World Cup.
“We’ve got to look at what we’ve done well and that was scoring 14 tries and over a hundred points over the last two matches, our attack from structured and broken play is good, our bench has played really well, and I think we’ve moved closer to getting the balance right for your 30-man world cup squad,” the Bok coach said.
“We’ve got good momentum going forward now and I’m happy with where we are at at this stage.”
The Boks dominated possession and territory in the first-half, but went into the break 19-17 down after Pierre Spies gifted Dan Scarborough an intercept try. At that stage the English were on course for an unlikely victory, and had the upper hand with Bryan Habana in the sin bin, but a six try second half blitz saw the Boks home. White said there was no need to launch a verbal assault on the players at the break and stressed that he remained confident at that point given the calibre of leaders he had in John Smit and Victor Matfield.
“I can’t stress how proud I am of this group of players for turning around that deficit at the break,” he said. “This was always going to be a difficult game and we just made it harder for ourselves by making stupid mistakes and giving away penalties. When the opposition have Jonny Wilkinson in their side that’s the worst thing you can do and when Bryan got sent off it became more difficult than it should have been.
“But we scored 36 points to three in the second half and I thought the rugby we played in the first 10 or so minutes of the half was the best we have over the last two weeks.”
Smit stressed that while the series win would’ve achieved the goal of giving them a psychological advantage going into the World Cup pool game, the real test was yet to come in France.
“Obviously we know that they will field a very different side at the World Cup and so that really makes the questions about what we gained here become null and void,” he said.
“Our preparation going into that pool game in 2003 was that we had 80 minutes to turn it around after a heavy defeat early that year, and though it didn’t happen then our approach will be the same. So the questions in the week leading up to that game will be about what we’re taking into the match, but it will be all about doing the business in what will be the most important 80 minutes of our season.”
On the question of player fatigue Smit said that he still felt fresh despite having coming off a Super 14 campaign that started in February. In fact the bulk of today’s side are in the same situation. Smit drew comparisons between this run of matches and the one they would experience at the World Cup.
“In that challenging four or five week stretch we are going to have to be at a mental and physical high, so this has been good preparation.”
White acknowledged the situation, and hinted that they would look at giving certain players a rest for the Test at Ellis Park against Samoa next week.
“We achieved our goal and now we’ve got an opportunity to look ahead at the next couple of weeks,” he said. “We mustn’t think that these players can play for another three consecutive weeks, but we’ll try and stay competitive while giving some guys rest.”
By Ryan Vrede, at Loftus