Springbok skipper John Smit says trust was the crucial ingredient during the series victory over the Lions this summer.
Smit led his side to a 2-1 win over Ian McGeechan’s tourists, 12 years after McGeechan had himself tasted victory in South Africa with the 1997 Lions.
And with the Boks now sitting at the top of the IRB rankings and on the brink of the Tri Nations title, Smit has explained why his side have become the dominant force in world rugby.
"We had mixed results in a 2008 season in which we had hoped to build on our World Cup success in the Tri-Nations. When you have good and bad results, character is revealed,” said Smit, who skippered South Africa to World Cup glory two years ago but then saw his side fail to reach similar heights a year later.
The Boks’ triumph at the World Cup in France was followed by a period of instability in South African rugby as head coach Jake White left his position later that year.
White was replaced by South Africa’s first black rugby coach in Peter de Villiers, with the former Baby Bok boss taking the reigns in January 2008.
De Villiers’ appointment was surrounded by controversy and Smit admits the relationship between coach and players has taken time to develop. But that now that both parties are on the same wavelength, stopping the Boks is set to prove harder than ever.
"We had been unsure of Peter and him of us,” added Smit, who takes his team to Brisbane this Saturday knowing a single point against the Wallabies will be enough to secure a first Tri Nations crown in five years.
”Peter got to know us and how we reacted to the good and bad and we got to know him and how he reacted in the same situations.
"So our mutual relationship was built last year and trust was formed.
"A rugby team cannot function without trust and understanding between management and players and there was a period of adjustment for all of us in 2008."