South Africa coach Heyneke Meyer believes the current Springboks will develop into a top team despite a lean recent run in which they lost to New Zealand and Australia and drew with Argentina.
"I have a special feeling about this team going forward. We're on the right track and the results will come," Meyer told reporters today after the team's return from New Zealand where they were beaten 21-11 by the All Blacks in Dunedin.
"I thought we scrummed well and I'm very happy with our front row. The combination we used in the loose forwards was superb against the best loose trio in the world and we have four great locks going forward.
"There were lots of positives from Dunedin, especially from the forwards, and I believe we did enough to win that game. I think it instilled that self-belief in the team that they can beat anyone anywhere," Meyer said.
South Africa dominated the first 50 minutes of the Rugby Championship test, but missed kicks at goal cost them 20 points.
First five-eighth Morne Steyn, the hero of their 2009 and 2010 campaigns, was responsible for 11 of those missed points and the waning influence of the Springbok backline has also been blamed on the 28-year-old pivot.
But Meyer believes Steyn, who has started all seven matches this year, still has a future at international level, pointing to the resurgence shown by wing Bryan Habana, South Africa's all-time leading try-scorer who struggled last year and played just six of the team's nine tests.
"I don't want to knock individuals but the missed kicks were crucial," he said. "Morne is mentally tough though and if you look at what happened to Bryan Habana, with the right guidance he is now playing phenomenal rugby again.
"I don't want to boost myself, but I've always been great at getting the best out of players and the mental break will do Morne well. We'll look at the situation after this weekend's Currie Cup matches and then decide who will play," Meyer added.
Meyer said the way the Springboks dominated the All Blacks in Dunedin showed that the controversial game plan they were using was the right one.
"The guys were very unhappy not to win, but sometimes we've played worse rugby in New Zealand and won, it was just the goal-kicking that let us down. Otherwise we did enough to win, it was the right game plan and we kept them under pressure, we just couldn't convert that into points.
"It was 3-5 at halftime, but it could have been 15-5 if we'd made our kicks, that would have built pressure and they would have had to chase the game. There's always criticism about the game plan, but I believe we got it 100 percent right. We had them under pressure," Meyer said.
The Springbok squad for their last two Rugby Championship matches, at home to Australia in Pretoria on Sept. 29 and New Zealand in Soweto on October 6, will be named today.
South Africa have an outside chance of claiming the title if they register two bonus-point wins and the All Blacks lose in Argentina without getting a bonus point.