Springboks see off Samoa 13-5 to reach knockout stages with 100 per cent record.
De Villiers happy with South Africa's tough test against Samoa
As the South Africans counted their bruises, they were also counting their blessings.
The fierce 13-5 win over Samoa on Friday to sweep Pool D and advance to the Rugby World Cup quarterfinals was just what the defending champions ordered.
"It's valuable to us, and we will need it going forward," Springboks coach Peter de Villiers said. "We know we'll not have as physical a game as that in the tournament again."
That remains to be seen. If the weekend's last pool matches go as expected, the Springboks will have to face Australia in the quarter-finals and possibly New Zealand in the semi-finals just to have a chance to defend their title.
But after surviving the Samoans, the Springboks were relieved to be on track and, more importantly for such a veteran squad, seemingly without adding significantly to their list of injuries.
"We had a hell of a pool to get through. We're through it and now its all systems go," de Villiers said.
The Springboks have beaten Wales, Fiji, Namibia and Samoa to extend their national record World Cup-winning streak to 11, just one short of Australia's tournament record.
The Samoans threatened the streak, but South Africa continued to produce an outstanding defence to hold them to just one try.
In their last five tests, including their last Tri-Nations match against New Zealand, the Springboks have conceded just three tries.
"Our defence is our strong point at the moment and that's how you win tournaments, with great defence," stand-in captain Victor Matfield said.
He was also proud of his lineup's discipline. The South Africans conceded 10 penalties, but none were within range of the posts, and Samoa didn't take any penalty shots. Matfield also thought they did well to stand up to off-the-ball incidents with the Samoans, although the niggle went both ways.
"We didn't get involved, we stayed out of it," he said. "We are very hard on our discipline, and I'm proud the boys kept their heads."
This was the 109-times capped Matfield's third match against Samoa in World Cups, but he said they were "a completely different Samoa team than normal". More of their players were professional, he said, adding that the Pacific island team was also well-prepared, having a longer build-up than usual. He hedged, though, when asked if they were more physical than other competitors.
"Hard to say. Possibly," he said. "We've played a lot of physical games. All the top teams are pretty physical. We're just pretty happy to get through this pool."
If they do end up meeting Tri-Nations champions Australia next, Matfield said it will be a different match. The South Africans lost at home and away to the Australians in this season's Tri-Nations series.
"Australia play a different style, different lines," he said. "They're pretty difficult to defend, Australia. We'll have to be on our game, have to believe in our systems and work hard."