Springbok coach full of pride
Springbok coach Allister Coetzee beamed with pride after his team's 3-0 series whitewash of France, but was careful not to be triumphant.
"We haven't achieved anything yet, but it is a good start to the year," he said after his team beat France 35-12 at Ellis Park on Saturday night.
His team was barely recognisable from the one that staggered from one failure to the next last year.
Changes in playing personnel, most notably the selection of Warren Whiteley as captain, as well as amendments to the coaching staff, especially the addition of Brendan Venter as a coaching consultant, helped steer the Boks to calmer waters.
The restoration of the Springbok brand has been front of mind for Coetzee and the gradual increase in crowd figures in this series created the impression that faith in the team is on the up.
"A lot of small things contribute to success. Sometimes you can't measure it. Sometimes a sponsor comes on board and injects positivity into the psyche," said Coetzee.
The coach must have been mightily relieved his team could banish thoughts of last year's underachievement.
"I'm very pleased that we could turn things around. It wasn't an easy seven months but everyone chipped in and we got the belief back in the Bok jersey again."
What was most pleasing was the all-for-one ethos with which the team has been imbued. A higher work rate and increased intensity helped set them apart in this series. It was exemplified by what Coetzee witnessed late in the third Test.
"When you see in the 76th minute three locks leading a chase you know you've done something right," said Coetzee, who was equally impressed with the way his team coped with the disruption of losing captain Whiteley on the eve of the final Test.
"Winning by a good margin and keeping France try-less was a massive step in the right direction.
"Our preparation time has really helped in that regard. We could put those things in place. It also has to do with self-pride and buying into a shared value system," he said of the team's improved defence.
France, it has to be said, were way off their best in a series contested at the end of their long season.
By enervating France in the tight exchanges, the Springboks set a platform from which to dominate.
Coetzee also had key questions answered around personnel - Whiteley's stature as captain has taken on impressive dimensions.
Although the Bok back row mix may yet require some tinkering, Whiteley and Siya Kolisi's contributions proved immense.
Flyhalf Elton Jantjies answered his critics by running the show in the back division and converting 16 from his 19 attempts at goal.
The Springboks can dare to dream again going into the Rugby Championship.