John McFarland (Gallo Images)
Cape Town - What a difference a couple of weeks and three Rugby World Cup matches can make.
There is a sense of optimism surrounding South African rugby again as the Springboks prepare for next weekend's World Cup quarter-final.
Wins over Samoa, Scotland and then Wednesday night's drubbing of a poor American side have gone a long way towards restoring a belief in this Springbok squad after that calamitous loss to Japan in week 1.
The road to the quarter-finals has been bumpy to say the least, and the Boks had to dig themselves out of a deep hole to get there.
"We were in a very dark space after Japan and there was a hell of a lot of pressure on and to get out of it and defend in the way we’ve done," Bok defence coach John McFarland said on Thursday.
"What’s been more impressive is not just their work rate but their desire to smash teams backwards in the tackle."
Responding to questions over whether the Boks had faced enough quality opposition in the pool stages to have been adequately tested defensively, McFarland was adamant they had.
"We’ve certainly been tested. All international teams will test you. When there’s 110 kg guys coming at you you’ve got to hit them backwards," he said.
The Boks will play either Wales or Australia in the quarter-finals, depending on who loses in Saturday's Pool A clash between those sides.
"We’ve played three Tests against Wales in 2014 and we know what they bring and they know what we bring," said McFarland.
"Australia we play regularly and the guys see them 24/7. I think Australia are in a good space at the moment. Obviously we’ll look at both of them, put video work together on both teams and then wait for the result on Saturday.
"What’s nice for us now is that we’ve had three very challenging hard weeks … and now we’ve got a three/four day break for the guys to refresh their bodies, refresh their minds and come back on Monday with a new focus."