Victor Matfield has challenged South Africa to heed their World Cup “wake-up call” after a 29-15 defeat in Ireland.
The 37-year-old lock dominated the line-out in Dublin while the Springboks pummelled Ireland at the scrum, but a host of handling errors scuppered a series of gilt-edged chances.
Captain Jean de Villiers lamented the catalogue of “basic, grade-one” mistakes, with former skipper Matfield forced to offer tacit agreement.
Head coach Heyneke Meyer has admitted he will know the majority of his World Cup 2015 squad by the end of the November tour and Matfield called on South Africa to hit back against England, Italy and Wales or face changes from the top.
“I think this is a wake-up call for us, there are one or two small little adjustments we need to make to our game, especially in wet conditions,” said Matfield.
“The World Cup is still a year away, and in the build-up to 2007 we had a big loss against France in Paris but we still went on to win the competition.
“There are changes we need to make, but hopefully we can learn from this defeat.
“I think the Irish played well but also we didn’t play to our potential.
“We made too many mistakes and one or two bad decisions as well.”
Ireland’s master tactician head coach Joe Schmidt had devised clear strategies to negate South Africa’s driving-maul power and deny the visitors any phase-play tempo.
That set of ploys paid huge dividends with South Africa frustrated to fall into the well-laid traps.
Rhys Ruddock and Tommy Bowe grabbed the pivotal tries, with Johnny Sexton slotting a flawless 16 points with the boot.
Marcell Coetzee and JP Pietersen crossed for South Africa, but replacement hooker Adriaan Strauss’ second-half yellow card proved pivotal.
Matfield admitted South Africa are now under huge pressure to deliver a performance and result against England at Twickenham.
The oldest Springbok of all time said South Africa’s 27-25 New Zealand victory last month already feels a lifetime away.
“South Africa’s a very proud rugby nation, there’s always pressure on the guys playing,” said Matfield.
“There’s a 36-man squad and everyone wants to play, and there are also guys back home who are very good players too that aren’t here.
“So whoever gets on the field has a big responsibility on how they handle almost the character of the team, and the jersey he’s got on.
“So there’s always a lot of pressure on the guys playing, but that’s what rugby’s about.
“After New Zealand everyone was just singing the praises of this team: one match later we are under huge pressure going down to Twickenham to face England.
“It’s not getting easier, and there’s a lot of pressure on the team.
“Their defence was very good, and that’s what won them the game. They were very good on ground, and it’s not just one player it’s the whole team.
“They make your breakdown very slow and we just couldn’t get quick ball at the rucks, we couldn’t play on the front foot so we didn’t have any momentum.
“I don’t know how those handling errors crept into our game, but all credit to the Irish for putting us under that amount of pressure.”