PRETORIA - Having picked themselves up after a terrible 2016, the Springboks are embracing and relishing the prospect of now playing against the Wallabies and All Blacks on their away leg of the Rugby Championship.
Springbok coach Allister Coetzee has steered his wayward and sinking ship from the lows of last year, where they lost eight out of their 12 Tests and won none away from home, to top spot on the Rugby Championship log after recording their first away win against Argentina in Salta with him at the helm.
It has been on the back of the five out of five Test wins this season that the Springboks will embark on a campaign-defining tour Down Under that could see them have their strongest chance of being crowned champions of the competition for the first time since its inception five years ago.
As the Springboks have risen to the challenge this year, Coetzee’s side will face an even greater challenge as they take on the Wallabies in Perth on Saturday almost four years to the day since they recorded their last victory on Australian soil with a 38-12 win in Brisbane.
Furthermore, the Springboks' last win in Perth was eight years ago at the Subiaco Oval, coincidentally in the same season they last won in New Zealand.
It is these challenges and obstacles standing in the Springboks' way to that maiden Rugby Championship title that Coetzee feels will get the best out of his players as long as they maintain and intensify the graft they have already put in this year.
“It is a big challenge for us over there. The one thing is that we’ve got to stay humble and grounded. That is key for us,” said Coetzee. “Humility is a key ingredient and we’ve got no option or alternative than to work hard. We have a group of players who are all medically fit, well-conditioned and really looking sharp. I’m pleased and even the players have more confidence in themselves and in the ability this team has.
"So we have to go and do the hard work as a team for each other. We need to get up off the floor as quick as we can, chase when you have to chase, make your tackles when you have to make your tackles and we have to get to the point of breakdown when we carry and the set-piece is non-negotiable. Players understand that there will be a challenge but we as a group actually relish any challenges coming our way. That gives us that growth that we are experiencing at the moment.”
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The growing sense of expectation from Bok supporters and the heightening of the Springboks’ confidence has come after overcoming another psychological barrier with their win in Salta, which was their first away win since 2015.
Coetzee has done his best to replicate all that they did right in the build-up to their game in Argentina and has stirred up the belief and confidence within the side in firing them up to attain what many would have thought insurmountable just a year ago.
“Winning any Test match is important. It is important for the belief and to taking steps toward our ultimate goal. Winning breeds confidence and having won that one, overcoming the travel challenge and to go there (Salta) and get the result is a big achievement,” Coetzee said.
"But we haven’t achieved anything yet as a team. We are still growing, we honestly have our goals set on bigger things going forward - long, short term and immediate. But short term there is Australia and that is our immediate goal now and there is a travel factor involved again. The team environment and the players are in a very good space. There is a plan on the table and there is excitement about the plan."