'Sharp' Boks ready for Australasian challenge
IN THE SPOTLIGHT: Springbok coach Allister Coetzee dismissed the notion that his team has been 'successful' - despite sitting at the top of the Rugby Championship standings.
The real test of South Africa's progress - since the Annus horribilis that was 2016 - starts this week, the beginning of a two-week Australasian tour.
They take on Australia in Perth this coming Saturday, September 9, and New Zealand in Albany a week later.
Coetzee made it clear his team has achieved nothing yet, despite beating Argentina twice.
"As a team we are in a good place," Coetzee told a media briefing.
"I think the big thing for this team is - which has grown a lot over the last five Test matches - it's a big challenge for us in Australasia.
"The one thing is that we have to stay grounded and humble, because when we are in that space - being really down to earth - we must still do the hard work.
"I think that's key for us.
"Humility is a key ingredient and we have no alternative or option to work hard."
The Bok coach was also happy to have a "medically fit, well-conditioned" squad of players that are "looking sharp" and have confidence in themselves.
"We know the ability of the team and when I talk about hard work - it is to get up from the floor as quick as we can, we have to chase when we have to chase, make your tackles when you have to, get to the point of breakdown when you can. The setpiece is also non-negotiable.
"Players understand that they will be challenged, but they actually relish any challenge coming their way and that gives us that growth.
"But we haven't achieved anything yet," Coetzee said, adding: "The team is still growing and we have our goals honestly set on bigger things going forward.
"Short term is Australia. That's our immediate goal now.
"We have had narrow losses in Australia over the last couple of years - by one point in 2014 [23-24], in 2015 by four points [20-24] and in 2016 by six points [17-23] - so it's always been close.
"The focus is on Australia for now.
"Normally when you go to Australia you think the big game is the All Blacks, but Australia is the big game for us - the mentality has changed and then you look at the next one.
"So we are just talking Australia and this is phase two. We are going to give our everything and maybe when we get back home we are in a position to contest [for the Championship]."