The Springboks have their work cut out for them as they look ahead to their defence of the Rugby World Cup in France in 2023 but have the building blocks in place, according to their head coach coach Jacques Nienaber.
Nienaber said 2021 had been a long year, but the coach had no qualms after not playing any matches in 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
A memorable 2-1 series win against the British and Irish Lions was followed by a mix of good and bad performances in the Rugby Championship, which ended with a triumph over New Zealand.
The 49-year-old used the recent northern hemisphere tour that ended with a narrow loss to rivals England to scout for possible bases for the 2023 World Cup.
He visited a number of towns and cities, including Aix-en-Provence, Toulon and Marseille and will decide where they will be located in January.
The Springboks will play two pool matches in Marseille and one at the Stade de France – where former Bok captain John Smit lifted the World Cup in 2007 – and a last one in Bordeaux.
Nienaber said he was satisfied with his first season at the helm, especially after a lengthy period without rugby.
“For us it has been a long season,” he told AFP.
“It is the end of our first season because we had not played in 2020.
“It has therefore been a good season in which we have been able to lay the foundations and see where we stand today.”
Nienaber said they had two years ahead to build and grow.
“There is still a lot of work to do from a rugby point of view,” he explained.
“How we organise ourselves and what type of rugby we want to produce.
“We have good foundations and we know now at what stage we are.
“However, I cannot stress enough there is still a lot of work to be done before the World Cup because we are in a difficult pool (Ireland and Scotland).”
Despite the northern hemisphere teams making their mark with some good victories over their southern hemisphere counterparts, Nienaber believes conclusions should not be made.
“I think that all the teams are very close,” he said.
“I am not keen to give an exact figure but to my mind but the 8-10 best teams are very tightly-matched.
“No matter the day or the team, if a team does not play at 100% it will lose matches.”