Johannesburg - Springbok coach Peter de Villiers has retracted the "resignation" he appeared to make after the Springboks' 11-9 loss against Australia in their World Cup quarter-final on Sunday.
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The Springbok management and senior players flew into Johannesburg on Monday to an enthusiastic welcome from several thousand people, most of whom blamed referee Bryce Lawrence's leniency at the breakdown for the loss in a match the defending world champions dominated.
Asked whether he had notified the South African Rugby Union of the decision he had made to resign, De Villiers backtracked.
"No, I never resigned, I was just saying it was the end of the road. It's logical, I have a four-year contract and I've known all along that this day would come. I will live and die by that contract, which ends in December and then I won't have a job," De Villiers told a news conference.
"After the match I didn't feel in control. People want security and I was the only coach at the tournament who didn't know his future. But the writing is on the wall, I will read it and move on," the enigmatic coach said.
De Villiers was asked shortly after the match whether his career was over.
"I think so," he said. "It was a brilliant journey ... There's a time to come and a time to go. So I think the journey for me is over."
The Springboks have definitely lost a couple of their biggest names with captain and hooker John Smit and lock Victor Matfield announcing their international retirements.
"We did set some goals which we did not achieve and we've had to put on some brave faces - it's been an emotional two days. But I don't want to let this loss be a reflection of the last 10-11 years. It's been a wonderful ride and I have no regrets," Smit said.
"There are no regrets, we did everything we could. There's no thoughts of 'if we had done that little thing differently we could have won the World Cup'. We never gave up," Matfield said.
Deputy minister of sport Gert Oosthuizen said the Springboks could still stand tall.
"There's no doubt that this exit has been heartbreaking and extremely painful, after we won everything in the final match except on the scoreboard. Welcome home Springboks, you fought so hard to retain the cup and you are really national heroes," Oosthuizen said.
Despite heading into what De Villiers described as "a new era" for Springbok rugby, Smit said he was sure the team would still be up with the best in the world.
"I really believe in the guys in the ranks, they've been able to learn as much as possible from us guys who are leaving, even if it's just seeing how we react in certain situations.
"You've got to be excited about the Springbok team that will play next year, there will just be a couple of guys missing, the core will still be there. It's a dream place to be for a Springbok fan," Smit said.
Smit cheekily suggested the one positive to come out of the defeat was that he will never have to come up against Lawrence again.
"Bryce is not difficult to communicate with, he just doesn't seem to listen very well. The one positive is that I won't ever have to be reffed by him again."