Rassie Erasmus has hailed his players for reviving South Africa‘s fortunes this year.
The Springboks complete their 2018 schedule by tackling Wales in Cardiff on Saturday.
They will be out to turn the tables following a 22-20 defeat against Warren Gatland’s men in Washington DC five months ago.
But South Africa also arrive at the Principality Stadium buoyed by victories over world champions New Zealand, England (twice), Australia, France and Scotland.
And that record is in stark contrast to last November, when they suffered a 38-3 drubbing against Ireland, edged past France by a point and then lost to Wales after winning just two out of six Rugby Championship games earlier in the year.
“Sometimes, you have to reach rock-bottom to accept there are a few things wrong,” said Erasmus, who was appointed Springboks head coach in March.
“The players took responsibility, ownership and a bit of a reality check of where we were in world rugby.
“I know we are still ranked number five, which is not great, but the difference between three and six is much closer than it was maybe a year ago.
“You can only put it down to the players accepting it and putting the effort in and doing their homework really hard. They are well-conditioned and know the opposition.
“We don’t have a great win record, but the intensity and intent are there to try and get better.”
Former Munster boss Erasmus, meanwhile, is predicting a fiercely-contested World Cup in Japan next year.
INTERVIEW: Normally shy and reserved, @wjjleroux opened up about how much he missed the Boks in 2017 and his return this year, as senior player and mentor to youngsters Aphiwe Dyantyi, Sbu Nkosi and Damian Willemse. #boksontour #loverugby pic.twitter.com/v5KXXEBSn4— South African Rugby (@Springboks) 21 November 2018
Ireland followed the Springboks in beating New Zealand last Saturday, and Erasmus added: “New Zealand have been going through a bit of a dip, but knowing them, they will pull themselves together and get it right before the World Cup.
“It will give Ireland a lot of confidence. Sometimes, the problem is what that does to the opposition playing you next.
“There is a lot of expectation when you beat New Zealand and people think you will automatically beat everybody else from then on.
“People start coming at you really hard, analysing you and working really hard to beat you because you beat New Zealand, but the players will definitely have a lot of belief, and a year out from the World Cup that is wonderful for Ireland.
“It will be so close in the World Cup, which is great for world rugby and great for the way the game is going, but not so much for the coaches because you do not sleep so well.”
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