Rassie Erasmus is big on process and results. He knows they don’t always make for immediate mates, as we saw against Argentina in Mendoza.
But if the process is working then the results will come, as played out against the All Blacks in Wellington.
The biggest challenge for Erasmus was getting the players in the right frame of mind to believe they had the necessary talent to beat the All Blacks.
The New Zealanders have set the standard since 2011. They’ve won 90 percent of their Tests and the defeat against the Springboks in this season’s Rugby Championship was just their second at home in 58 Tests.
Don’t underestimate just how big an achievement it was for the Springboks to win.
For the Boks to arrive at next year’s World Cup in Japan as contenders they had to have known the feeling of beating the world’s best team. The Boks and All Blacks are grouped together and it’s possible the two could again meet in the final.
The win against the All Blacks, in New Zealand, was the result Erasmus craved. He challenged the players to make that game their benchmark game of what was possible.
Erasmus, the players and the Springbok supporters now have a tangible as a reference point. It can be done.
Equally, Erasmus targeted the Springboks getting a result against all the top six teams before the World Cup. It was about experiencing that victory, even if just once.
The Boks got two wins against England and it is pivotal to Erasmus’s definition of ‘getting results’ that these Boks beat Australia.
The teams drew twice in 2017 and in the most recent match-up in Brisbane it was Australia who edged the game by five points. South Africa, traditionally, have struggled to win in Australia, but equally the Wallabies have invariably left South Africa defeated.
Australia remains a very good side and they’ve always had the capacity to find one big performance at World Cups that get them on a tournament roll.
There is respect from within the Bok squad for the potential of the Wallabies, but for Erasmus to feel the Rugby Championship has delivered a result it would mean adding the Wallabies to the Pumas and All Blacks as teams the Boks have defeated.
The third Test against England in Cape Town was a reminder of the infancy of the process. Mendoza emphatically spelt it out again.
There will be more stumbles along the way over the next 12 months, but there will also be those crucial results that add to the belief and turn hope into conviction.
Erasmus, in beating England and the All Blacks, has also shown that winning and transformation can be packaged together.
No Springbok coach has invested such commitment to transforming the Springboks and no Springbok coach has shown such trust in the black players selected.
The Springboks in Port Elizabeth will want to celebrate with a victory the memory of the inspirational Nelson Mandela on what would have been his 100th birthday.
They will want to do it in style and with a match-day squad that finally speaks to all of South Africa.@mark_keohane