Rassie Erasmus has attributed the team’s turnaround in fortunes to the ‘ownership of performance taken by the players’.
On Saturday, the Springboks claimed the Rugby Championship title for the first time after claiming a resounding win over Argentina in Salta to end the shortened tournament undefeated.
‘It’s something they wanted and they are hungry to be successful,’ Erasmus said on the team’s return to South Africa on Monday.
‘If you look at it, nothing has really changed at the top – we have the same structures, the same CEO, the same coaching structures, but the players have stepped up.
‘They train hard, they play hard and they want to win games and for all the work we do off the field it comes down to a Handre Pollard against a Richie Mo’unga or a Duane Vermeulen against a Kieran Read, and the players have taken that on.’
The Boks are preparing to launch themselves into the World Cup with a momentum-boosting performance at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria on Saturday when they will face Argentina once again.
‘This is a very important week for us and I’m really excited about what we plan to do,’ Erasmus said.
‘We’re determined to build on the momentum we’ve produced over the past few weekends and we’re really looking forward to ticking a few more boxes before we leave for Japan.
‘This is the last 80 minutes we will have before reaching Japan and then we have only one match there before playing New Zealand, so this match is very important to the campaign.
“We don’t know what team Argentina will pick but you can be sure they’ll be going all out to end their pre-Rugby World Cup campaign with a morale-boosting win.’
Erasmus confirmed that Springbok captain Siya Kolisi would be involved in Saturday’s Test but it will be carefully managed, though.
‘He is a guy we desperately want to be involved on Saturday and we will involve him but it will be limited minutes. We won’t rush him – we need to carefully manage his return,’ said Erasmus.
The Springboks are holding an open training session at Loftus on Tuesday, followed by a meet and greet.
‘This is the last chance we’ll have to show the South African public what we can do and after our last game at home against Australia we’re looking for a repeat,’ said Erasmus.
‘We’ve felt the country behind us in the past few weeks and we’d like to see them behind us in the stands.’
Erasmus added that winning the Rugby Championship had been a reward for the hard work the players had put in, but said the performance had been just as important.
‘Winning the trophy was part of the plan but if we hadn’t won it we would’ve been happy with the work that has been done on and off the field since we got together.
‘Winning a trophy wasn’t something we had done for a while, so that was great but in a few months there’s a bigger one to win and that’s our main aim.
‘We have got some momentum and developing consistency and that’s very important to us.’
Photo: EPA/Jan Touzeau