YOKOHAMA -- South Africa's path to their third World Cup title in Yokohama on Saturday was forged during a do-or-die performance against New Zealand a year ago, when coach Rassie Erasmus had been on the brink of quitting.
The Springboks won that September game 36-34 in Wellington to record their first victory against the All Blacks in New Zealand since 2009, while also wiping away memories of successive losses to Argentina and Australia in the Rugby Championship.
"It was pretty important for us, because otherwise I wouldn't be sitting here," Erasmus said on Saturday after his side crushed England 32-12 in the World Cup final.
Erasmus had only been in the job since February at the time. He had replaced Allister Coetzee and started planning for the 20 months leading up to the World Cup in Japan, with one of his goals to seek consistency before the end of 2018.
"We had short-term targets and the Wellington test match was like a quarter-final... we role-played that like it was our quarter-final," Erasmus told reporters with the Webb Ellis Cup standing in front of him.