'A Captain's Cup' - an exclusive eight-part Radio Sport podcast series every Friday in which Louis Herman-Watt and Daniel McHardy interview every Rugby World Cup-winning captain. In part 6, John Smit discusses how one game in 2006 set the tone for the Springboks' success in 2007.
For John Smit's Springboks, one game in 2006 changed everything.
The side had lost six straight matches heading into their penultimate game of the 2006 Tri-Nations, and one more loss would have likely seen Smit's tenure, and that of coach Jake White, come to an abrupt end.
However, thanks to a 78th minute penalty from the boot of Andre Pretorius, the Springboks beat the All Blacks 21-20, before toppling Australia 24-16 the following week.
All of a sudden things were looking up – just in time for final preparations ahead of the 2007 Rugby World Cup.
Smit says White had an idea of what he wanted the 2007 squad to look like three years beforehand and, while the 2006 campaign gave them a scare, the side selected for the World Cup aligned with White's initial vision.
"He got it quite close to that," Smit says. "Over that time we built a huge amount of experience together, but also we became tight as a family. We watched each other go from having girlfriends to wives, to becoming fathers and we had this amazing history of memories together over the four years.
"2006 was critical because as tough as it was, it would have been a time when a lot of other teams I'd played in might've turned on each other and pointed fingers, but we remained quite loyal to each other in that time and I think that's what made us stronger and more resilient for 2007."
Their resiliency showed in 2007, as the side cruised through the pool stages unbeaten, before seeing off Fiji and Argentina on their way to the final.
"It's not just another game, a Rugby World Cup final," Smit says. "No matter what players try to tell you or if coaches say it's just another game, it's not. Everything's different. There's more of everything – more pressure, more media and more at stake."
For South Africa to claim the title they had to get through defending champions England for the second time in the tournament, having beaten them in pool play 36-0.
It was a much tighter affair in the final, but the Springboks were again able to come out on top, claiming the World Cup 15-6 in a try-less final.