The Springboks might be sitting pretty at the top of the Rugby Championship log but they would have jetted out of Johannesburg headed for Perth fully aware of the make-or-break factor in their upcoming two-Test tour of Australia and New Zealand.
Not since the 2014 season have the Springboks left for Australasia feeling as confident as they are at the moment after making the perfect start to the competition with two wins against Argentina which included their maiden away win under coach Allister Coetzee.
But the five consecutive wins so far this season, which include the 3-0 series whitewash against France, will be redundant in the Springboks' aspirations for their maiden Rugby Championship title if they don’t at least pick up one win on this away leg before coming home and hosting both the Wallabies and All Blacks.
With the first part of the competition successfully completed with convincing wins against the Pumas in Port Elizabeth and Salta, the Springboks will be salivating at the prospect of returning from Perth and Auckland with one hand already on the trophy.
“I can’t refer to the last one unless we have completed this one successfully," Coetzee said in Johannesburg prior to departing with the Springbok forwards and the rest of management on Saturday.
"You won’t be in with a shout if there’s no progress in the second phase. So they all fit into the whole puzzle. We’ve got to go there and be successful. If we want to stay in the competition and win it in the end, this is massively important."
Coetzee is a man cautious about thinking too far ahead considering the Springboks last won in Perth nine years ago and the Wallabies showed that they are not a side to be taken lightly after their heartbreaking last gasp loss to the All Blacks in Dunedin last weekend.
As porous as the Wallabies may have been in the build-up to the Rugby Championship which included a defeat at home to Scotland, Coetzee believes that Michael Cheika’s side remains clever and possesses a formidable pack as was evident in their 35-29 defeat against the All Blacks.
“We have a lot of respect for the Australians and they ask different questions to most of the other sides. They are a clever side and they really do things intelligently. We are facing defensively something different but we know what to expect and have a good understanding and we will continue with what we believe in and our processes. Don’t look at Super Rugby, don’t look at that first game and don’t look at what has happened to Australia now. They’ve got 33 fantastic international players, a pack that can compete and could be a force so we’ve got our work cut out there.”
And with the Springbok backs having arrived in Perth on Saturday morning already along with assistant coaches Franco Smith and Brendan Venter, Coetzee is confident that the coming together of the entire group will be the final piece to the puzzle that will hand them the best preparation ahead of Saturday’s Test.
“But as I say and even though it is a cliché, every Test is very important because it breeds belief in what we do and keeps the momentum going. The momentum is something much needed in every team especially in international rugby; it helps with continuity and a lot of things.
"We are really looking forward to the Test and to improve from the Salta performance and the players understand the job. I’m happy with the planning and preparation and the players must just go out there and do the job,” said Coetzee.
“What we do need is all the confidence that we can have to go on an Australasia leg.
" As a team we are in a good place. I think the big thing for this team is that they have grown a lot in the past five Test matches but it is a big challenge for us over there. We have to stay humble and grounded and just continue to do the hard work. Humility is a key ingredient and we have no option but to work hard.”