Brisbane - The importance of experience in Test rugby was driven home to Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer on Saturday when his patched up side were denied victory by a last-gasp Wallabies try at Lang Park.
As it happened: Australia v South Africa
Leading 20-17 with less than half a minute remaining on the clock, South Africa elected to recycle the ball rather than hoof it into touch, only to concede a penalty at the breakdown.
Australia spurned the chance to tie up the match from the tee, kicked for touch and, with the hooter having already sounded, Tevita Kuridrani forced the ball down over the line for the match-winning try.
Meyer was of the view that had his captain Victor Matfield not been forced off the pitch by a hamstring injury in his 122nd Test, the Wallabies might not have had the chance to score.
"A lot of youngsters stood up tonight but we've seen again today that you need experience," he told reporters.
"It's not an excuse but I think if Victor was on the field today right to the end, it maybe would have been a different story.
"Learned a lot, still proud of the guys but it's never good enough for the Boks to lose. I thought we did enough to win.
"A great performance if we had kicked the ball out near the end and not conceded the penalty, everybody would have said 'unbelievable character' and we would have won the game.
"That's how close it is in international rugby, it's 30 seconds both ways and that's the difference between being a hero and a loser."
Matfield, who said he was hoping he would only be out for a week or two, was not the only addition to Meyer's already lengthy casualty list with flank Marcell Coetzee also suffering what initially looked like a season-ending knee injury.
"At first we was worried, thought it was his knee ligaments," Meyer added.
"Probably better news, just a bruise above the knee. We'll take a look at him. Probably out for two to three weeks, but I don't think he's out until the end of the World Cup."
Meyer also thought prop Jannie du Plessis would be "fine" to face the All Blacks in Johannesburg next week despite taking "a big knock" against Australia.
"There's no reason why we can't beat them," he said of the world champions.
"We truly believe we can beat any team in the world when we play to our strengths. It's going to be a big mental challenge but I'm fully confident we can beat them."