Boks on Tour
Div: tour 'qualified success'
Tour highlight: Lwazi Mvovo's first Test try against England. (Gallo)
Johannesburg - The Springbok rugby team has departed from Britain, with coach Peter de Villiers declaring the five-week end-of-year tour with an injury-hit squad as a qualified success.
South Africa won three of their four Tests before an experimental and further injury-hit line-up pushed a star-studded Barbarians side to the final whistle in a 26-20 defeat at Twickenham on Saturday in the tour finale.
De Villiers said he had thanked the players for their efforts on the Grand Slam tour, adding that they had been able to take a number of positives from the trip.
"Losing to Scotland remains very disappointing, but it shouldn't totally overshadow the progress we have made," said De Villiers.
"We left a large number of senior players at home and many commentators didn't give us much of a chance.
"But we showed in our wins against Ireland, Wales and England that when we properly execute our gameplan we make it very hard for the opposition.
"We dominated England and Ireland for the first 60 minutes and turned around our game against Wales with some great play in the second half.
"Those were hard games in sometimes difficult conditions against fresh and motivated teams."
De Villiers said there were other valuable outcomes of the tour.
"We have been able to blood some new players in Test match rugby as well as give some young players exposure to the Springbok environment that'll stand our rugby in good stead in 2011 and beyond," he said.
"The pool of capped Springboks in serious contention for selection next year has been widened by this tour, while the hidden benefit is that we have more than a dozen senior players who weren't on tour and who have had the advantage of an extended rest period.
"I think the senior players on this tour, such as Victor Matfield and Bakkies Botha, also ended the debate about whether it's time to retire the over 30s, as some people wanted to. They led and performed in great style."
De Villiers said the Bok scrum had continued to improve on the tour.
"We held our own and had periods of dominance in a region where they take scrumming very seriously. Overall I think our first phases were very good," he said.
"We were also able to work on the way we want to play and we're very clear on that within the group.
"We have South African strengths and we will play to them and when we keep hold of the ball as we plan, and execute our plans with accuracy, a Springbok team is very hard to beat."
De Villiers added that the defeat by Scotland remained bitterly disappointing as it denied the team the opportunity to complete South Africa's first Grand Slam in half a century.
"Our skills and application were tested in difficult conditions," he said.
"But it also taught us some valuable lessons and I'll be discussing those with Vodacom Super Rugby coaches in due course."
De Villiers said the performance of a new combination in the defeat by the Barbarians had been hampered by a lack of preparation time in snow-bound England.
"Obviously losing any match in a Springbok jersey is very disappointing and frustrating but, in the circumstances, supporters can be proud of the character and application showed by the players," said De Villiers.
"The Barbarian squad had several hundred more caps than our team, which had only five players with more than 10 caps to their name.
"We made a bad start with individual errors and conceded several penalties, but once we got back to our structures and our first phases started working, we put them under pressure and outscored them, 17-7, in the last hour of the match."
The Springboks are next in action in a Tri-Nations match against Australia in Sydney on July 23 next year.