The hard-fought 14-9 victory that the Wallabies earned in Durban at the weekend, when they demonstrated an ability to deliver under pressure, was an ideal boost to their confidence as they build momentum ahead of the World Cup.
Coach Robbie Deans' charges suffered a jolting blow when they were comprehensively beaten by the All Blacks at Eden Park in Auckland the previous week, but they responded admirably by holding their nerve to register another win on South African soil which exhibited their considerable self-belief.
In the grand scheme of things the manner in which the victory was achieved was perhaps more valuable than the four log points earned, as it proved that the Wallabies can adapt their game and soak up pressure when required - a quality that can be quite handy at World Cups.
The Australians proved that they have some devastating attacking weaponry when they dismantled a second-string Springbok team in the opening Tri-Nations clash in Sydney, but the character shown in their win on Saturday revealed an impressive versatility to their game.
The Springboks had close to their first-choice combination together for the first time this season and were dominant in the first half at Kings Park, but the Wallabies showed good fighting spirit by not allowing the home team over the tryline and then kicked on to clinch another morale-boosting win in a tense second half.
Coach Robbie Deans praised his team's ability to keep a positive frame of mind under some intense pressure as the Springboks threw everything they had at them in the opening forty minutes.
"We didn't let the negatives phase us, we just kept sticking to what we knew would work eventually and we got the pay at the end of the game,” he said.
Despite being 6-0 down at the break, it was clear that the Wallabies had done extremely well to limit the damage and Deans revealed that there was a determined belief in the camp that they could overturn the deficit.
"We had the sense that it was there for us if we adjusted, some of our choices weren't perfect - we put ourselves under pressure unnecessarily - but that was an improvement from last week,” the Wallaby boss pointed out.
This attitude was in stark contrast to the feeling in the Springbok changeroom at half-time.
Bok captain John Smit admitted that he felt uneasy despite being in the lead as the South Africans knew they had missed too many opportunities to make their dominance count on the scoreboard and were expecting to fade late in the second half, as they eventually did.
This difference in mindset is particularly revealing heading into the pressure cauldron of the World Cup and despite all the brave talk of ‘encouraging signs' from the Springbok camp the Wallabies have some convincing actions to point to which speak far louder than any words the Boks can desperately spin.
Veteran Wallabies lock Nathan Sharpe explained that every side visiting South Africa should expect a fierce examination of their character - a test which his team passed with flying colours on Saturday.
He commented: "Coming over here is never easy to play; South Africans have probably had a bit of a fortress mentality over the years for a lot of teams that have come here.”
Sharpe said that the team's determined performances on their visits to South Africa in the last two years have given the Australians some invaluable confidence heading into the global showpiece in little over a month's time.
"I think that this team has proven itself [over here] in the last couple of years. In Pretoria we played well, then we won in Bloemfontein and then again tonight. It shows that the team is really progressing in that regard,” he said.
The gritty victory in Durban showed that the Wallabies are far from one-trick ponies and the kind of confidence gained from such a performance ahead of the World Cup is priceless.
Deans' men will know that their final Tri-Nations clash with the All Blacks in Brisbane in two weeks time will be the ultimate test of their big-game credentials, but with the momentum gained from their performance in Durban it is tough to bet against them landing a telling psychological blow.
By Michael de Vries, in Durban
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