Springbok coach Jake White says his controversial decision to protect top players ahead of the World Cup has been vindicated after an injury sidelined stand-in Springbok skipper Bob Skinstad.
The player suffered a broken rib in Saturday night's 25-17 Tri-Nations loss to Australia, ruling him out for at least six weeks and threatening his World Cup chances.
White, who was criticized by the Australian Rugby Union for sending a side widely derided as a B-team, said Skinstad's injury showed he was right to leave more than 20 top players at home for the Springboks final two Tri-Nations matches.
"It could be a lot worse, I could be sitting here with my front-line players out for six months," White said.
"It just reaffirms as a coach that the decisions we've made in the last four years have been the right decisions," he said.
White said his weakened side had performed credibly as they raced to a 17-0 lead before their vastly experienced Wallaby opponents recovered to claim victory.
"Certain players put their hands up and showed that they can play at Test level, in terms of World Cups," he said, singling out Bulls flanker Wikus van Heerden, who scored South Africa's first try.
"When we landed here a lot of people thought it would be one-way traffic but we attacked from our own in-goal area ... they were happy to take the win, whereas 10 days ago they were looking for a bonus point," he said.
While the defeat ends South Africa's chances of defending the Tri-Nations, White said World Cup preparations remained on track.
"I'm very happy where we are with the squad of players, we've been working very hard for four years to put players together," he said.
"Obviously we're not happy with losing, we really came here to win and give us a chance to go to New Zealand and win the Tri-Nations. That was our goal, but there was a lot of positives we could take after the game," he said.
The Springbok coach conceded that he did not expect his weakened side to emerge victorious, even after South Africa's flying start.
"I must be honest, at 17-0 I never thought we were going to win the game but I thought what a great start, now we can settle down," he said.
"When you look at the game they had so much ball and they were coming at us and coming at us," White said.
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