Wellington - Peter de Villiers will step down as South Africa's coach after the reigning champions lost their World Cup quarter-final to Australia here on Sunday."It was a brilliant journey," said De Villiers, who took over from Jake White following the Springboks' 2007 World Cup win.
"There's a time to come and a time to go and I think the journey for me is over," he added following South Africa's 11-9 loss to Australia, which saw the 'curse of the champions' strike again, with no team yet to win back-to-back World Cup titles.
Turning his gaze on assembled journalists, De Villiers, who has been much maligned for some of his selection policies and public gaffes, added: "It's something you guys can't take away from me.
"It was incredible, and I'm proud to have been in a position to make a contribution to my country."
When South Africa captain John Smit, retiring from international rugby as a player, was asked to say a few words about De Villiers, his coach jumped in and joked: "It's not a funeral, eh!"
Smit said the Springbok squad had enjoyed life under De Villiers.
"We've had a really good four years together. That's been pioneered by Peter," he said. "Even the bad days are good
"He has given us leeway and space and tightened that space when we took advantage of it.
"I'm disappointed to end it like this."
Wallabies coach Robbie Deans added: "Peter de Villiers is a quality man, I've enjoyed the interactions I've had with him."
The 54-year-old De Villiers became a likeable but rather enigmatic figure in world rugby, often better known for bizarre utterances and actions rather than tactical master strokes.
De Villiers placed a lot of faith in the 2007 Cup-winning squad, choosing 18 of the 30 and 11 of those were in the squad that lost 11-9 to Australia.
'Div' upset many with his talk-now-think-later approach which peaked when South Africa flanker Schalk Burger eye gouged British and Irish Lion Luke Fitzgerald.
The incident at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria two years ago overshadowed a last-minute, series-sealing triumph for the green and gold, and triggered global fury.
Instead of offering sympathy to the injured Irish wing, De Villiers defended Burger and committed one of the worst gaffes of an often troubled four-year reign.
"Why don't we go down to the nearest ballet shop, get some tutus and get a dancing shop going?," de Villiers said.
His public support last year for Bees Roux after the Blue Bulls prop was arrested for the alleged murder of a Pretoria policeman also severely embarrassed rugby officials.
The 54-year-old native of the Western Cape wheat town of Malmesbury was a controversial choice as successor to 2007 World Cup winner Jake White.
South African Rugby Union boss Oregan Hoskins admitted rugby was not the only factor considered before de Villiers became the first black Springbok coach as the country tried to overcome the racial inequalities of the apartheid era.
Critics pointed to his inexperience - two seasons at Currie Cup minnows Valke (Falcons) and a spell in charge of a national age-limit team.
A poor first Test season brought only two wins in six Tri-Nations outings, but 2009 produced a dramatic improvement.
Victory in New Zealand sealed top place in the southern hemisphere championship and the large cherry on top was revenge for a 1997 series loss to the British and Irish Lions.
De Villiers failed to maintain the momentum, though, and 2010 was an 'annus horribilis' with five Tri-Nations reverses, including home defeats by New Zealand and Australia.
This year was no better with a 'B' team humiliated in Sydney and Wellington during July before a loss to the Wallabies and a win over an All Blacks 'B' team at home.
Apart from a dismal win-loss record, De Villiers has not delivered on promises to get the Springboks playing more expansively and speeding up transformation to increase the number of non-white players in the team.