South Africa coach Allister Coetzee says the Springboks' dismal 2016 is a thing of the past after he watched his side romp home to a 37-14 victory over an under-strength France at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria on Saturday.
The Boks scored tries through centres Jesse Kriel and Jan Serfontein, scrumhalf Ross Cronje and a penalty try, and were good value for the win even if they led France by only two points going into the final quarter.
"Firstly, I have to say we have closed the chapter on 2016," Coetzee said in the post match press conference. "I have selected the best possible squad to take on France in this series and I'm very happy with the performance.
"And I say performance rather than the win. We are moving in the right direction, it is step one of 13 games this season, but our attack, defence and kicking game were all good.
"It was not perfect, but what I can say is that there is an excellent team environment that is taking shape. The last five minutes of the game, when it was basically won, we spent in our 22 and still did not concede a try. There is a brotherhood there, its about putting your body on the line for one-another."
Coetzee acknowledged that France had gone into the game with 10 changes from the side that beat Wales at the end of the Six Nations in March, and they will be stronger next week in Durban.
"We are not there yet, we must acknowledge that the French played without a lot of their leading players and still put us under pressure at times," he said.
Coetzee also had praise for his bench and says his team selection has been made difficult by the competition in the squad.
"The impact of the bench was unbelievable, it was so tough to select this team because the guys were really pushing for positions. I'm especially proud of all the debutants.
"I am happy that we created chances, the mistakes we can fix. It was not perfect and there is still a lot of work to be done, but it is an improvement."
Centre Jesse Kriel went off with a suspected concussion and Coetzee said he would be assessed on Monday.
Meanwhile, new captain Warren Whiteley says he was pleased with the intensity at which the team played, and the hunger they showed to grab the win.
"I'm really proud of the intensity and the effort, the guys getting off the ground quickly to get back into shape, working hard on defence, they all worked really hard for each other," Whiteley said.
Whiteley had a hand in the try for Lions teammate Ross Cronje and was delighted for the scrumhalf, as well as fellow debutants, wing Courtnall Skosan and fullback Andries Coetzee.
"It's so special to see players you have known for years, guys you have seen grow, make their debut. You could see the joy on everybody's face for Ross. Every try was celebrated well tonight.
"Every single player did his part, but we will keep our feet on the ground. The French will come out fighting next week in Durban."