Wellington - South Africa were preparing for the "real" Rugby World Cup to start when they meet old foes Australia in the tournament's quarter-finals on Sunday.
"One thing's for sure, the real World Cup is starting this week," said captain and hooker John Smit, who guided the Springboks to four victories from four pool games.
"It's definitely a tournament that is set up in two stages, and this is the stage where every game is do-or-die, it's a different level completely."
Predicting there would be a "different vibe" around the camp, Smit added that any team that had safely negotiated pool play was worth their spot in the knock-out phase.
"If you've got this far, you've done well in being successful in your pool and those pools, especially for us, have been invaluable because we came into the competition pretty undercooked," he said.
"So having the game time, being able to see what your combinations are like, and see how players can get into form, it's really invaluable.
"Everyone's on the same level, so the results of what happened are irrelevant because everyone's on the same footing, but experiences of the last four weeks will have been helpful for the eight teams through."
Smit said he was "pretty pleased" with his team's performances so far.
"We've managed to come through our pool with some tough challenges. But it comes down to how we perform over the next three weeks."
The first challenge comes in the shape of the Wallabies, whom Smit agreed had a mental edge over the Springboks.
"We haven't beaten Australia this year and last year wasn't fantastic either," said the hooker, who has signed to play for English Premiership club Saracens after the World Cup.
"They're a team that has one up on us over the last two seasons, they're good opposition, we do know their players better than most and they're a team that has been improving.
"Certainly, they'll feel they'll have a mental edge.
"We'll want to face the match as a fresh start in terms of where we want to go over the next few weeks and I'm pretty sure they'll look at what they've been able to achieve before against us into this weekend.
"It's two different mindsets, I suppose, and they've certainly had the upper hand in the last couple of seasons and it would be naive not to accept that."
But he warned that neither team would rely on past laurels or disappointments.
"They're not going to fool themselves and rely on what they've done and we're not going to fool ourselves and look back at what hasn't been done," he said.
"Each of us is going to take what we've done over the last four weeks, work on that, take the positives out and put it all together on Sunday."