How All Blacks saved Cup hero’s bacon
South Africa's path to their third World Cup title in Yokohama was forged during a do-or-die performance against New Zealand a year ago, when coach Rassie Erasmus had been on the brink of quitting.
The Springboks won that September game 36-34 in Wellington to record their first victory against the All Blacks in New Zealand since 2009, while also wiping away memories of successive losses to Argentina and Australia in the Rugby Championship.
"It was pretty important for us, because otherwise I wouldn't be sitting here," Erasmus said after his side crushed England 32-12 in the World Cup final.
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Erasmus had only been in the job since February at the time. He had replaced Allister Coetzee and started planning for the 20 months leading up to the World Cup in Japan, with one of his goals to seek consistency before the end of 2018.
"We had short-term targets and the Wellington Test match was like a quarter- final... we role-played that like it was our quarter-final," Erasmus said.
"Prior to that we had lost to Australia and Argentina and I said that if we don't win that one, I'm definitely willing to resign because in my coaching career I had never lost three games in a row at any level.
"And I thought: 'Hell, for a Springboks coach to lose three in a row, I don't think I deserve to be the Springboks coach.' "We had a great chat about the plans... (I) said that if I am preaching that we are being consistent in the way we are playing and we are losing to Argentina and Australia and we're ... losing to New Zealand for three in a row, then I'm out of here."
Erasmus said the victory had given his team belief that they could compete with the world's best sides as well as reinvigorating support for the team within South Africa.
He added that the 23-13 loss to the All Blacks in their opening World Cup pool game had actually been beneficial.
The Springboks were the first side to win the trophy having lost a match in the pool phases.
"I think the first test against the All Blacks was great for us in terms of how we handled pressure," Erasmus said.
"We were tense all week and it was a terrible build-up for that pool game.
"That actually taught us a lot how to handle the quarter-final, semi-final and final.
"Overall we started talking about pressure and what is pressure? Pressure in South Africa is not having a job. Pressure is having one of your close relatives murdered.
"In South Africa there are a lot of problems which is pressure and we started talking about things like that.
"Rugby shouldn't be something that creates pressure. It is something that creates hope."