London – South Africa's rowing team coach Paul Jackson says their consistency and accurate execution of their race strategy was crucial in achieving their gold medal at the Olympic Games on Thursday.

The quartet of Sizwe Ndlovu, Matthew Brittain, John Smith and James Thompson snatched victory in the last few metres of the 2000m course.

“Our relative position in the race was according to plan with an even-paced race strategy,” Jackson said.

“We are very quick in the last 500m and people who go up on us will pay for it – and they did.

“People have said we were down on fourth at the 1000m, but if you look at our splits it was 1:30, 1:31, 1:30, 1:29 and that’s very even and it was exactly as we planned.”

The South Africans started conservatively, going through the 500-metre mark in third place, and dropping back to fourth as they reached 1 500m.

At that stage, Brittain said, he had resigned himself to finishing in fourth place.

“I remembered sitting in the race thinking, ‘ah we are in fourth place, I guess fourth is not that bad,'said Brittain.

“Then luckily we came though the halfway and we all committed everything we had and suddenly fourth became third.”

Ndlovu, who became only the second black South African to earn an Olympic gold medal, behind 1996 marathon champion Josiah Thugwane, said he believed from the start that they could win the race.

“Of course I believed – you have to believe it to go through the race,” Ndlovu said.

“From the start, the conditions were good and we went through the race with nice rhythm.

“It was at the halfway mark that I really believed we’d got it and we were fine.” – Sapa