Jean de Villiers (Gallo Images)
Johannesburg - South Africa skipper Jean de Villiers admitted Monday that an unimpressive win over Argentina was a timely reminder the Springboks must improve before tackling Australia and New Zealand during September.
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A subdued national squad arrived in Johannesburg after two late Morne Steyn penalties scraped a 22-17 win against rivals they had whipped by 60 points in Soweto a week earlier.
The Springboks tackle Australia in Brisbane on September 7 and world champions New Zealand in Auckland seven days later in the Rugby Championship.
Centre De Villiers told reporters at OR Tambo airport outside Johannesburg that a lot of hard work lay ahead if the green and gold were to be competitive in Australasia.
"We need to improve before the next games - there were too many handling errors and too many other mistakes in Argentina.
"That match was a wake-up call for us.
"Match statistics showed there were only 29 minutes of play and that is too little by any standards.
"It was a stop-start game and we could not pick up the pace.
"We get together again this Thursday and will be preparing well for the trip abroad," said the 32-year-old who became captain when John Smit retired after the 2011 Rugby World Cup.
De Villiers said there were also positives from the first away win in the southern hemisphere championship since a victory over the All Blacks in Hamilton four years ago.
"I was happy with the result because it has been quite a while since we won away in this competition.
"We are improving as we only scraped a draw in Argentina last year.
"It was encouraging that we managed to adapt at the end of the Mendoza Test.
"To get a positive result demonstrates that we are growing as a team."
The contrasting victories over Argentina earned South Africa nine points and top spot ahead of New Zealand on points difference.
Argentina have one and Australia are pointless.
Coach Heyneke Meyer will name his 28-man squad Wednesday for the two-Test tour against the Wallabies and All Blacks, teams they traditionally struggle to defeat away.