Peter de Villiers says there are improvements to be made despite their emphatic 31-19 victory over New Zealand.
The manner in which the victory was achieved and the fact that they still have a match in South Africa remaining, now surely heightens expectations on this team. They came close to touching the ceiling of their potential in Durban, and had they been more clinical with their scoring opportunities, they would have embarrassed the All Blacks.
There is plenty to be delighted about, and De Villiers said they would celebrate the victory in a manner deserving of the performance and result, but he stressed that there was more to come from this side, and refused to buy the hype surrounding his team at present.
‘We weren’t clinical enough, there’s certainly room for improvement,’ De Villiers told keo.co.za.
‘There’s along way to go, we’re only two games into the tournament. We haven’t achieved anything yet and this performance wasn’t as great as it should have been.
‘That said, it is a platform to launch from. But next week [against Australia] is going to be a different kettle of fish. We’ll celebrate tonight, but we’ll start from nought again tomorrow.’
De Villiers did, however, allow himself to highlight and praise some of the positives to emanate from the performance.
‘We always knew the All Blacks were going to come out all guns blazing and I was worried at certain stages of the game,’ he said. ‘But the character of this side, led by a brilliant captain, came through.
‘Technically speaking, I was pleased with our reaction speed when they turned over possession, and the fact that we were able to create space out wide. The guys are willing to put the hard work in, and the dividends of that hard work showed at times.
‘The experience of this side tells at crucial stages, and when you have a captain like John Smit leading the way you are in a good position to start with. His influence on the other guys is awesome. Watching from the sidelines I couldn’t tell if Morne Steyn had three or 30 Test caps. I think John has a lot to do with that.’
Smit said he was pleased that the hype around him becoming the most capped Test captain in history, as well as Bryan Habana and Jean de Villiers’ 50th Test caps, had the potential to affect their focus. However, he said he was pleased that the squad managed to maintain that focus and improve on last week’s performance.
‘We knew we had to take a step up in terms of intensity and physicality because they would. We couldn’t bring what we brought last week, and we didn’t,’ Smit said. ‘We played clever footy for the most part and piled on the pressure. So I’m pretty happy with the result.’
The Blacks adopted an expansive approach, and persisted with it even when they were making little inroads. Smit was reluctant to comment on that flawed approach, but did highlight his side’s role in blunting the Blacks.
‘They played the game that suits the strengths of their players and it would probably have paid dividends against another side,’ he said. ‘We also tried to force them into a situation where they were taking risks and that played into our hands.
‘You spend the week trying to plan how to put pressure on your opponents and I thought we were pretty good at doing that today. We got it right this week, but there’s still long to go in this competition and they may get it right in their remaining matches.’
Asked whether he thought the All Blacks would recall a fit again flyhalf Dan Carter given the pressure they find themselves under, Smith said, ‘I can’t see why not. He’s a wonderful player.
‘I was one of those who celebrated when he moved to France [ruling him out of the Tri-Nations] because he is good at every department of flyhalf play. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him being selected. He’s like Richie McCaw in the sense that he will slot straight back into the side, and hit the ground running.’
By Ryan Vrede, at King’s Park