Springboks buoyed by victory over Wallabies
Enthusiasm and self-belief can do wonders for a team's mindset.
After trouncing Australia, the rejuvenated Springboks believe they have shifted from bunker-mode to a place of security, just in time for the All Blacks' arrival.
“We are developing as a side. It's great to have a victory like this to put us on the front foot,” Springboks flanker Francios Louw said.
“You want to take that front-foot confidence into every training session and then the All Blacks.”
South Africa have endured a torrid tournament. The peripheral mud-slinging came thick and fast from their unforgiving rugby public following the shock away draw with Argentina and continued after losses to Australia and New Zealand.
“It's been an up and down Rugby Championship. One win against Argentina and a draw, two losses on tour, it wasn't the entry to the tournament we wanted,” Louw said. “Those losses can make you stronger. We have learnt from them.”
And that goes for their loss to New Zealand in Dunedin last month. South Africa created enough opportunities to win the match but botched, by their own estimate, at least 20 points.
With it went any hope of victory.
Bryan Habana shelved a certain try and the veteran finisher is not likely to make the same mistake after regaining his attacking guile with a hat-trick against the Wallabies.
“We had a fair few opportunities in Dunedin but we definitely blew it,” Louw noted. “[In] test match rugby you have to take your chances. We had our opportunities on tour to score tries and even win those games.
"We didn't take those.”
The Boks' respect for the All Blacks is unquestioned, but they are relishing the chance to lock horns in front of 94,000 fans.
Louw's part in South Africa's improving loose-forward trio was integral against Australia. His partnership with veteran enforcer Willem Alberts and breakdown pillaging No 8 Duane Vermeulen is starting to flourish. The trio were always going to take time to settle after the injury losses of Pierre Spies and Schalk Burger.
The physically taxing tussle with the Pumas and long-haul journey to the Republic will test Richie McCaw, Kieran Read and Liam Messam.
“It's an area we knew we could take the Aussies on. They need quick go-forward ball to attack from,” Louw said. “Slowing down their ball allows our defence to set and allows us to get in their faces.”
Those same tactics will be employed for the All Blacks. Limit the speed, width and possession and you nullify their greatest weapon.
Argentina's sevens-like game played into the All Blacks' hands in that regard, allowing the world champions to display the best of their attacking brilliance for only the second time this year, the other being in the second test walloping of Ireland, in Hamilton.
While the Springboks were buoyed by their surprise five-try breakout victory, they also took pride from their stout defensive structures, which will also be tougher to crack than what the Pumas offered.
“We only let in one try,” lock Eden Etzebeth said. “Obviously our defence is working for us.
"It must continue to be a main focus."