Sportal.co.nz 01.Sep.2012Getty Images
The Springboks produced their worst performance under coach Heyneke Meyer so far, stuttering to a 16-all draw in the second Test of their Rugby Championship campaign last week.
Now under immense pressure from the South African media and public, Meyer's men will get their first chance to turn things around when they tackle Australia in Perth next Saturday.
De Villiers stressed the importance of identifying and eliminating the errors they've made and called for a significant improvement.
"We need to learn from our experiences, and we're growing as a team, but you can't keep making the same mistakes," De Villiers told keo.co.za on Thursday.
"By next week we will know if we've stepped up or not.
"Our discipline needs to improve, our execution, and our set-phases have taken a step backward. We maybe need to improve 40 percent but the margins are very small in Test rugby."
De Villiers felt that time had healed some of the wounds sustained in Argentina and had allowed them to gain a measure of perspective on it.
"Looking at the game again I feel better about it," he said.
"There were actually a lot of positives from the game. We believe we were a better team than how we played on Saturday."
In response to the criticism of what was perceived to be a conservative game plan, de Villiers said: "Even though there has been a lot of criticism of our attacking play, I thought that was actually quite good.
"It's a new coach trying to get a message and game plan across to the team.
"We will all stand up for what we believe in. We believe in the coach and what we're doing is right."