The Springboks salvaged some pride by winning their final Tri-Nations game of the season in Port Elizabeth which gave them a much-needed boost ahead of the defence of their World Cup title next month.
The Boks impressed with their sustained intensity in the comfortable 18-5 victory over an under-strength All Blacks team on Saturday and stand-in captain Victor Matfield admitted that victory was vital to restore the faith of the fans after some decidedly lacklustre performances in recent weeks.
He said: "We haven't been good in the last three weeks and we just wanted to show our fans today that we can go to the World Cup and defend it."
The Springboks have never been whitewashed in the 15 year history of the Tri-Nations, and they protected that record with a determined display at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium where it was clear that losing was not an option for the home side.
However, some will argue that too much damage has been done to confidence levels in the South African camp already this season and point to the fact that the frontline Springboks did not manage to score a single try against an All Black outfit shorn of some star performers.
Matfield conceded that his side can improve in certain areas, but was adamant that there is no such thing as a hollow victory against the All Blacks.
"You don't beat the All Blacks if you are not ready for a World Cup, so we are very happy with where we are as a team but we know that there is still a lot of hard work. It wasn't our best yet and we can still improve," he commented.
The veteran lock was full of praise for the committed attitude his side showed right through the game, a week after they had faded badly in the second half against Australia who beat them in Durban.
"I think the All Blacks came out hard [in the second half] and the guys showed their fitness in the way that they defended - they scrambled, they worked for each other and they showed a lot of heart," said Matfield.
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