Coming off their 1-2 series loss to Ireland, it fell on the players to go out and perform.
"It doesn't matter who is coaching us, it comes down to how we perform on the field.
"We've got to perform for 80-plus minutes. It's not about performing for periods of the game. We've got to be consistent right across the board. Through set-piece, round the field, breakdown, defence etc.
"That's something we need to drive as players," he said.
In the situation the All Blacks were in with their recent losses, Whitelock recalled the advice he received when first making the side, ahead of the 2011 Rugby World Cup when there was so much pressure to win the trophy for the first time in 24 years.
Older players said to forget all the media and comment outside the team and to concentrate on what the team could control. And that was what he had told the younger members of this year's side.
"Controlling how you are playing, how you're training, how you're preparing. That's the best thing I got given as advice and it's still true now as one of the older boys," he said.
In the wake of the lost series to Ireland, the All Blacks were looking to improve. And that was the same whether they won, lost or drew games.
"At the moment we do know there are some areas we need to be better at. Conceding a couple of maul tries is the obvious one for me as a tight forward. That is a key area I am focusing on and making sure we can get better."
All members of the forward pack were involved in doing that.
South Africa would play to their strengths.
"But in saying that, you never want to go in there and think you have their game plan in your head. They're smart guys. They've got a number of guys who play around the world and different styles they can go to.
"That's something for us to make sure that we can stop their plan A, and from that, if they change it, then we've got to be able to stop that as well.
"That's the beauty of rugby, sometimes you go out there, and you know how they are going to play. It's just stopping it, that's the major one.
"That's the cool thing about the challenge of playing against South Africa, the old foe as such, and it is nice when you get out there to play when you've spent all the time training," he said.
Whitelock said he loved being back in South Africa, as did many of his team-mates.
"It is an awesome spot to play. It's one of those spots that's hard to play, but that's why I enjoy it so much," he said.
Whitelock said while they were not at home, there was no escaping the pressure on the side.
"For us as players, as a team, we're always trying to put pressure on ourselves, but it is good for us. It's great for the team to be over here together. We've got time to work on what we need to work on.
"We've got a great facility here, a training facility close to our hotel so we can get into it and have a little bit more time on-field to improve. That's what we're trying to do, improve a number of areas of our game."