Manie Libbok admitted South Africa will be loaded with confidence going into their World Cup semi-final with England after coming through one of the greatest rugby matches in living memory with a one-point victory over hosts France.
In a titanic quarter-final in Paris on Sunday, the Boks twice came from behind to eke out a 29-28 triumph, ending Les Bleus’ 18-game winning run on home soil and ruining their talismanic captain Antoine Dupont’s much-hyped return from injury.
Having pulled off such a momentous victory, the defending champions are now hot favourites to see off Steve Borthwick’s England at Stade de France next Saturday and reach the final for a second tournament running.
“Obviously we’re going to take a lot of positives out of the game because France are a quality team who have done well over the past few years,” said stand-off Libbok.
“We’ve still got a lot of stuff to work on and rectify for the semi-finals but we can take a lot of confidence from beating France.
“They put us under pressure from the word go and it was really hard. I am very proud of the guys for sticking in there and sticking to our game.
“It definitely felt like a game that could go either way and we came out on the right side of it.”
While supporters inside the stadium and watching on television on Sunday were gripped by a captivating showdown that ebbed and flowed at breakneck pace, Libbok found it a thrill to play in.
“Most definitely it was one of the best games I have ever been involved in,” he said. “It was big, obviously with the crowd as well, it was an amazing atmosphere. I really enjoyed it.”
The drama of the quarter-final showdown was highlighted by a moment in the six-try first half when South Africa winger Cheslin Kolbe bolted out to successfully charge down a conversion attempt from Thomas Ramos.
“Cheslin doing that was insane, actually,” said Libbok. “We were very happy for what he did because it took two points away from them and when you look at the result, there was only one point in it, so it was massive from Cheslin.”
Libbok is adamant South Africa will not treat England lightly even though they have been struggling in recent years and are widely deemed to have reached the semi-final mainly due to being in the half of the draw that featured none of the five top-ranked teams in the world.
“England are also a quality team and it’s a play-off so anything can happen,” said the number 10. “It’s important for us to focus on ourselves.
“Recovery is massive now. We have to recover well and prepare well so we are ready to play to the best of our abilities.”
Saturday’s semi-final represents a rematch of both the 2007 and 2019 finals and South Africa scrum-half Faf de Klerk insisted Borthwick’s side should not be underestimated.
“We have played against England a lot. Obviously they have been struggling before the World Cup but they have definitely started to turn things around,” said the 31-year-old, who came off the bench on Sunday to help the Boks see the job through.
“It is going to be a very big, tough challenge, especially with a six-day turnaround. We just have to focus on recovery and make sure we are ready for that.”