Cape Town - Springbok No 8 Duane Vermeulen has opened up on what the spirit in the camp was like towards the end of the Allister Coetzee era.
Always a fan of Coetzee's, Vermeulen played just four Test matches under his former Stormers coach.
He played the first two Tests against Ireland in 2016, but then struggled with fitness and conditioning in the months that followed, and he only returned to the green and gold towards the end of Coetzee's tenure on last year's end-of-year tour.
The Boks had just been smashed 38-3 by Ireland in Dublin, and Vermeulen was called up to help restore some pride to the Bok jersey.
He played in an uninspiring 18-17 win over France and then in the 35-6 win over Italy, but looking back Vermeulen remembers how dashed the spirits were in that Bok camp.
"Last year was kind of the end of one coach's era ... the guys were in a difficult set-up," he said in Johannesburg on Tuesday where the Boks are preparing for Saturday's clash against England.
"When I walked in there you felt there was something different. The guys were down, and you could see in their body language that there was something missing.
"This year is a new group with a young bunch of guys and everyone is excited to start the season fresh. Hopefully we can change something."
Vermeulen added that he felt in good physical shape.
"Everything is all good ... luckily there is no strapping on the knee and maybe one or two kilograms lighter. I'm looking forward to this international campaign," he said.
Kick-off on Saturday is at 17:05.