And the man charged with avenging the series defeat 12 years ago is also wary of Ian McGeechan's team as he gets ready for a possible series decider at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria on Saturday.
"This is a brilliant Lions side and the way we played against them there are two or three areas where we went down. Our defence, concentration levels and kicking game need to be brushed up," said de Villiers.
"It was always going to be tough. What we knew was it was going to be an upgrade of the Wales team we played last year and we struggled against them.
"So we will take the win and move on. We know they will come back at us because they are a good team who know what they are doing and who will never lie down.
"If you think you are going to go into any international and annihilate teams you are missing the point. We did what we had to do and we will take the win."
Referring to the five changes he made in the space of eight minutes at the end of the third quarter, when his side were leading by 19 points, de Villiers admitted it was probably too much at one time.
"I made a mistake there. We were a little bit flat and I wanted to inject some enthusiasm and speed, but it didn't happen that way and maybe I changed too much too soon.
"We were really controlling the game in the second half and I thought I would send on some fresh legs.
"We won't be too confident moving on to Loftus, but at least we will go there with a win under our belt."