South Africa coach Jacques Nienaber urged his side to even great heights after the Rugby World Cup holders impressed in a 52-16 warm-up win over Wales in Cardiff on Saturday.
The Springboks ran in eight tries against an injury-hit Wales during a display that featured sharp interplay by their backs as well as the forward strength that has long been a hallmark of South African rugby.
But thanks to a draw that took place several years before the start of the upcoming World Cup in France, South Africa find themselves in arguably the toughest pool of the tournament alongside top-ranked Ireland and fast-improving Scotland.
And should the Springboks reach the quarter-finals they will face another huge challenge, with either tournament hosts France or arch-rivals New Zealand their likely opponents.
The Springboks begin the defence of the title they won four years ago against Scotland in Marseille on September 10.
“We have to get better in France,” said Nienaber.
“We are on the side of the draw that is knockout from game one. Just to get out of pool we have to be on form.”
South Africa’s win easily surpassed their previous biggest win against Wales in Cardiff, a 34-12 success in 2007.
South Africa captain Siya Kolisi, the skipper of the side that beat England in the 2019 final in Japan, returned to action at the Principality Stadium.
The flanker partially tore his anterior cruciate ligament in April. But there was no sign of the injury as Kolisi played the whole of the first half before going off at the break.
“I’ve been praying, God has been good to me and my wife has been by my side,” Kolisi told Amazon Prime.
“It’s belief, mental belief. Also the guys that have been through it, whenever I was in a tough place, saying that I could get through it,” the 32-year-old added ahead of his side’s final warm-up match, against New Zealand at Twickenham on Friday.
Wales’ two previous warm-up games had yielded a win and a defeat in a pair of encounters with England.
But with experienced backs Alex Cuthbert Dan Biggar and Liam Williams all dropping out of the original team with minor injuries, Wales’ side on Saturday had just 235 caps compared to South Africa’s 659.
The thumping defeat was the first time Wales had conceded 50 or more points in either of coach Warren Gatland’s two spells in charge.
Gatland names his World Cup squad on Monday and the New Zealander suggested the margin of this loss may have made his job easier.
“If we need to have more discussion hopefully we can do that on Sunday,” he said.
“Possibly some of those questions that we’ve got would have made it a little bit easier for our discussions.”
Gatland, who guided Wales to two fourth-place finishes at the World Cup in his first spell in charge, added: “It was disappointing. I thought we were dominated physically on both sides of the ball.”
But he insisted all was far from lost for Wales, who launch their World Cup campaign against Fiji — the team that knocked them out of the 2007 edition in France — in Bordeaux on September 10.
“There’s some easy fixes in terms of probably four or five of those tries are easy enough to stop and then all of a sudden there’s a different complexion on the game,” said Gatland.