On the ball:  Springbok prop Tendai Mtawarira produced a fired-up performance in Durban after coming in for criticism ahead of the series against France. Picture: GAVIN BARKER/ BACKPAGEPIX
On the ball: Springbok prop Tendai Mtawarira produced a fired-up performance in Durban after coming in for criticism ahead of the series against France. Picture: GAVIN BARKER/ BACKPAGEPIX

For someone who had just declared the door shut on the prickly matter of 2016, Springbok forwards coach Matt Proudfoot did a good job rolling out the welcome mat.

"About last year …" is the least acknowledged question in the Bok ranks, especially near cameras and microphones, but after a bit of prodding, Proudfoot waded in on Tuesday.

"That door is closed. Sorry I can’t answer that question," he said, offering initial resistance.

"I’d say a lot of good came out of last year in the sense that no lesson is a bad lesson. Last year’s lessons were priceless and we have taken those lessons on board," said Proudfoot, still basking in the afterglow of SA’s series-clinching win over France in Durban.

"If we think about where we are now we’ve created an environment where players can grow and thrive. We’ve come a long way from where we were last year."

The Springboks and their crimes of 2016 have been indivisible in the build-up to this series. Naturally, scapegoats find it hard to shake cross-hairs and Proudfoot felt duty bound to step into the breach for Tendai Mtawarira who had come under fire in the build-up to the series.

Mtawarira responded with a fired-up, near frenzied performance in Durban.

"To say a guy with 90 caps is past it is crazy," Proudfoot said. "Coenie [Oosthuizen] is probably our next-most experienced front rower.

"He [Mtawarira] has been incredible. If you talk to any of the props around the squad [they will tell you] he’s been great," he said.

Proudfoot also gushed about the contributions to the national cause of props Thomas du Toit, Ox Nché and Wilco Louw.

"The guys have been contributing all the way through. In our first week in Joburg you had Coenie and Ruan [Dreyer] talking about binding positions.

"That stems from an appetite for the collective to be successful. That’s not my work, that is their work."

In the build-up to Saturday’s third Test the hosts will need no reminder that in 2001, the last time France played at Ellis Park they outscrummed the Boks. Powerhouse loosehead Jean-Jacques Crenca left an indelible blot on Etienne Fynn’s debut and the Boks crashed 32-23.

Proudfoot will have none of it this weekend.

"The integrity and stability of our set piece is paramount. I’ve been happy with the outcomes. We’ve been better technically, particularly the engagement sequence and our body shape."

Ross Cronjé has been ruled out of Saturday’s Test with delayed concussion symptoms.

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