John Smit credited the Springboks’ superb defensive effort for the memorable victory at Twickenham on Saturday.
The Boks may have scored five tries but an enduring image of this contest will be that of lock Bakkies Botha getting back to halt Delon Armitage from scoring for England. The cover arrived in the form of JP Pietersen, and the opportunity was missed.
The Boks denied England at numerous instances even when they were a man short. Smit said it’s indicative of the heart and spirit within this Bok squad.
“If you look at how we defended when we had 14 men on the field, I have to say I’m very proud of the performance,” the Bok captain beamed. “It shows the heart of the players and the belief they have in one another.
“You talk about training defence, but you can’t train scrambling defence. That moment with Bakkies only fueled the fire that was already burning deep inside us.”
Coach Peter de Villiers agreed with Smit’s assessment, and highlighted the effort of Bryan Habana.
“Defence is also about making decisions. Bryan had to stop two guys and force the mistake from the England players. That’s what we mean when we talk about empowering players to make decisions.
“Ruan [Pienaar's] try was also a result of great defence. He read the move brilliantly, charged down [Danny] Cipriani’s kick and scored.”
Smit was at the helm when the Boks last won at Twickenham and said it felt great to extend their two-game streak at the ground and their six-game hold over England.
“It’s always hard to come over here, so to win like that is very special. I got the sense of that in the change room before the game with guys like Victor and Bakkies who haven’t won here before. It was a huge motivating factor.”
The Boks have completed a clean sweep of Wales, Scotland and England and Smit believes they are in good shape to beat the British & Irish Lions in the 2009 series.
“We’ll take this momentum into next year where the magnitude will be 10 times what it was on this tour. I’m extremely happy with what I’ve seen over the past three weeks and there’s plenty to work with for next June,” he said.