The Springboks’ Rugby World Cup title defence came to an end with a nail-biting 11-9 loss to Australia in Wellington on Sunday.
The quarterfinal encounter was played with the tenacity of a battle between two rugby powerhouses that fought tooth and nail for every inch of turf beneath their feet.
A James Horwill try in the fifth minute set the tone of an encounter that saw nine points from the boot of Morné Steyn, spearheading the Springbok attack.
It was a game of high intensity that saw the Springboks dominate with 60% possession and 80% territory.
Had it not been for some sloppy handling and mistimed passes, the scoreboard would have told a different story.
Questions will have to be asked of referee Bryce Lawrence whose decision making at crucial points in the match left much to be desired.
Ultimately, it was an untimely error from Danie Russouw in the 71st minute cost South Africa the game, as the young James O’ Connor slotted the resultant penalty.
Springbok skipper John Smit was gracious in defeat.
“It was a ding-dong battle between two determined teams. It’s a horrible way to go out but a couple of missed opportunities cost us. We did enough to win this game but that’s the way it goes,” he said.
The loss will not reflect the effort put in by South Africa in a tournament where they came in underdogs.
Four years is a long time and the team will be vastly different in Japan come 2015.
It also marks the end of an era for veterans Smit, Victor Matfield and Fourie du Preez who bring the curtain down on impressive careers.
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