Two strong performances, with attacking intent, defensive dominance and a changed attitude have seen the Boks pick up a series win against the French, and made it two from two with a final game to go in Johannesburg.
The coach, after the Loftus Test, which in itself was an improvement from the last game played in 2016, asked for more of the same as the Boks improved steadily in all aspects of their play. That was indeed accomplished as the Boks managed to score another 37 points over a much-improved French outfit.
However, two wins, at home, against a tired French team, does not a year make. The Boks have a long road ahead of them just in terms of this year’s fixtures, as well as in their mission to turn around their fortunes.
Speaking after the Boks' win over France in Durban on Saturday, Whiteley reiterated that nothing had been accomplished yet, although he was happy to see the progress made by his team.
“We have not accomplished anything as a team,” the No 8 said bluntly. “This is a good start, but there is another massive Test match ahead of us.”
It was a statement that took many by surprise, and when quizzed further on Whiteley’s take on two dominate display’s that, to be honest, were not expected, he sought to clarify that the Boks were working towards a bigger goal than a home series win against France.
“It is only the second Test match,” Whiteley said. “We have, I think, 12 or 11 Test matches to play this year.
"Look, I am not saying we have not done well, of course, we’re extremely excited for the start and the foundation that we have laid, but we still believe there is a lot of rugby to be played and we believe we can improve as a team. That is what is exciting for us.”
It was not only the captain who had these thoughts. Beleaguered coach Coetzee was happy to acknowledge a much more positive start to his second year in charge, but clearly also had his sights set on the bigger picture, a picture that probably includes him going all the way to the 2019 World Cup in Japan.
“Look we have not achieved anything yet,” Coetzee said in a similar vein to his captain. “It is a young team and if we continue to build like we are building, we will soon be a force to be reckoned with.”
However, there was no taking away from the happiness that Coetzee felt at being able to walk away with an easy series victory against a French team that threw all they had at the Boks.
“Unbelievable performance,” Coetzee smiled. “Very happy with the performance and the way this team has grown over nine months.
“Nine months ago, we were all sitting here (in Durban after a record loss against the All Blacks) with a lot of pain. But it is nice to witness an outstanding performance, not perfect yet, we still have a lot of work to do, and we are following a process.
“But I am pleased in the set piece, the way we attacked, and the big thing for me is the way we defended.”
The Boks have a dead rubber in Johannesburg this Saturday, however, with all this talk of continuity and growing into a force to be reckoned with, you can imagine that the management and the players will approach the last game as if it was a final.
It is a team that is still growing and finding each other, and one more game will do them a world of good as Coetzee tries to restore pride in the Springbok emblem.