Gordon Igesund on Friday played down Bafana Bafana's 1-0 defeat by Poland in a friendly, saying the result was not the issue.
Bafana Bafana is preparing to host the Africa Cup of Nations.
"Poland scored the goal that counted at the end. Obviously we're disappointed," Igesund told reporters at Warsaw's Kazimierz Gorski Stadium.
But he said the match – one of the Bafana Bafana's rare out of competition encounters with a European side – had always been about honing his squad.
"It was a tough toss for us tonight, because I tried out a couple of players, I made some substitutions, I brought in some young boys in the side who're making their debut. So overall I think I achieved what I wanted to get out of this game," Igesund explained.
"We're doing the preparation for the Africa Cup of Nations and I think it's important for us to focus on that. I'd rather lose these games, as long as the players learn something from it, from those little situations. We'll be that much better prepared when we get to the games that count," he said.
The performances of both Poland and South Africa flagged up defensive and attacking weaknesses, but the Poles snatched the winner in the 82nd minute.
Games like this
"Overall, it's a good learning experience. These are the places to learn these kind of situations. You need games like this, the players will grow from here," said Igesund.
"We know where we went wrong," he added.
The Poland match, followed by a trip to Kenya on Tuesday, are crucial for South Africa's countdown to the Africa Cup of Nations.
With an automatic hosts' berth at the January 19-February 10 showcase, they have to rely on friendlies to get ready.
After the fall of the country's Apartheid regime enabled them to enter the international arena, South Africa earned a reputation as continental powerhouses, winning the 1996 African tournament.
But their star has fallen since 2002, with the 2010 World Cup on home turf proving a disappointment as they exited in the group stage.
Solid starting side Fifty-six-year-old Igesund was named national coach in June.
His side started their Africa Cup of Nations preparations last month by losing 1-0 in Brazil and beating Mozambique 2-0 at home.
Having brought a 26-man squad to Poland, he said he wanted to use the short time available to build a solid starting side by January.
"I looking for the players who can come to the next level," said Igesund.
Among the new faces, he singled out for praise 26-year-old defender Ricardo Nunes, a South African-born former Portugal youth player.
He made his South Africa debut in Warsaw.
Nunes, of Slovak club Zilina, is one of the few SA internationals who ply their trade abroad. Sapa-AFP