Boks buckling under weight of expectation?
IN THE SPOTLIGHT: The Springboks have drawn the laager, as pressure is mounting over their poor form.
The Boks feel that the only "criticism" that really matters is their own.
Springbok assistant coach Matthew Proudfoot, fronting up to the media ahead of their Rugby Championship showdown with the Wallabies in Pretoria on Saturday, was just as dismissive of public and media criticism as coach Allister Coetzee earlier in the week.
Proudfoot said coaching staff firstly look at themselves that's the criticism they measure themselves by.
"Criticism is criticism. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion," Proudfoot said, adding: "We can't afford to worry about that."
The public backlash has come in the wake of a three-match losing streak on the road - having lost 24-26 to Argentina in Salta, 17-23 to Australia in Brisbane and suffered a 13-41 defeat against the All Blacks in Christchurch.
It has not been the best start to Coetzee's tenure - with defeat in the opening Test against Ireland in June, then two fortuitous come-from-behind victories against the Irish and another come-from-behind win over the Pumas in the opening round of the Rugby Championship.
Proudfoot said the coaching staff look at themselves "really harshly".
"I am not going to comment on people's opinions," he said, adding: "When we have a coaches meeting, we close the door. Allister has created an environment where honesty prevails."
"If [forwards coach] Johan [van Graan] feels I've overstepped the mark or done something wrong, he has the license to say so.
"I'm just speaking about my department, because that is the only thing I can speak of. I will respond to that.
"What goes into the press or the blog pages, that has to be there. People are passionate about rugby in this country and we feel that responsibility. It is good we feel that responsibility, because [or] else we don't care about this game or the Springbok brand in South Africa.
"What you say about me reflects your karma. How I react to it reflect my karma. When we close the coaching door, we talk honestly."
He said that as a coach, the players are the yardstick they measure themselves by.
"If I'm contributing to them, [making them] better players, making them better men, then that's what it's about and I think that's how we handle criticism. We look at ourselves, we are honest with ourselves.
"The first thing we do as the coaching staff, is look at ourselves, what we could do better and then we take that to the team and say what do you do then and that's where the response is.
"I think that's the criticism where we need to measure ourselves by, because that's the only criticism that can affect our performances," said Proudfoot.
Proudfoot added that every player in the squad wants to make the country proud and the team have put in a committed effort on the training field throughout the week, in order to get the result.
"Allister laid down the marker on Sunday, when we got together and [he] gave us goals for the week," he said.
"I think if you look at the first two days of training, the squad has responded - everybody is really pushing the level of excellence and contribution from each member of the squad and that's all we can take care of.
"Everybody is here, everybody is pushing and really motivated for the week. It's a big challenge for us against the Aussies and that's the way we looking at it," explained Proudfoot.
By Josh Isaacson