"When you come into these games the result is secondary to what you want to achieve," said De Villiers, who admitted to being worried about how his scrum would fare against the Italians.
"We focused on scrums today and our lineout work, driving from there and our lineout jumping, to see how it would work in the future. I think we achieved more than today's result."
"I was a bit afraid coming into this game that psychologically (last week's scrummaging problems) would give more to the players than anything else.
"I know the ability of our scrums, I know that our players are world class, I know they can stand up for themselves under all circumstances and I think the last 20 minutes instilled that kind of confidence that we tried to bring over to them in practice."
Smit felt his team-mates had rebounded well from their France defeat.
"It was a tour in which we lost our first game against a good French side and we played beneath ourselves and allowed that to happen," he said.
"So the frustration was high in a week where we were pretty much all over the place, via Saracens and missing a day's training on Wednesday because of the weather.
"Our boys regrouped pretty well and again we fell back on that experience of battling behind the things that worked for us and we stuck to a lot of those things that worked for us today and it ended up becoming a good result for us."
One of the main plusses for South Africa was a solid debut by Cheetahs prop Wian du Preez depsite a baptism of fire against Martin Castrogiovanni.
"I think it was a big task for him in his first start in a Springbok jersey to be up against a scrum as formidable as the scrum we were up against today," said Smit.
"He's had some good form in the local competition, the Currie Cup, and I think the challenge for him was to convert that to international level. I think he'll be happy with the experience and he'll be a far greater player in the next year or two to come."
Italy largely played well but crucial missed tackles cost them two tries and they didn't help themselves by missing three penalties.
But coach Nick Mallett, a South African, was nonetheless satisfied.
"There was no lack of desire, the defence was fantastic. We missed two tackles on two of their tries but when we all saw Castro's (Castrogiovanni) tackle on (Bryan) Habana in the 78th minute to stop him at 200km/hr, it was incredible that an Italian player could be getting up and tackling like that right to the end.
"I don't like to talk about individual players after the match because I believe that is a conversation that should stay between a coach and his players in private.
"But it's true that our place kicking and kicking from the hands was not as good as the South Africans'."
Italy will complete their November series against Samoa in Ascoli next week and captain Sergio Parisse knows there is a lot of expectation that they will end their 13-match losing streak.
"I think everyone is expecting a win next week but it won't be an easy game," he said.
"Samoa showed against Wales that they can play good rugby, hence we need to recover physically because we gave a lot today and against New Zealand."