Paris - France coach Philippe Saint-Andre admitted his team are not at the level of the top two in the world following a convincing defeat to South Africa.
GALLERY: Boks win at Stade Francoise
As it happened: France v SA
Les Bleus hosted both the top two teams in the world during this November series and although they were not embarrassed, they came up short each time.
But while they came close to snatching a draw against world champions and world number ones New Zealand two weeks ago in a 26-19 defeat, they never really looked capable of upsetting the number two South Africans at the Stade de France on Saturday, going down 19-10.
In truth, France gave their visitors a helping hand when Morgan Parra's second minute clearing kick was charged down by JP Pietersen, who ran on to touch down.
But after that South Africa had two tries refused by the video referee and spent most of the game camped in France's half.
And Saint-Andre admits they have a way to go yet to reach that level.
"First of all I have to congratulate South Africa, they're not the second best team in the world by chance," he said.
"We have to be realistic, in our last six matches we played New Zealand four times and South Africa once, we're not at their level.
"But I can only congratulate the players for their generosity and what they gave on the pitch because we showed up for 80 minutes.
"But we can't give a seven-point present to the second best team in the world, and also Morgan slipped the moment he took that penalty (which would have brought the score back to 7-3).
"We started anxiously, we made handling errors in the first 15 minutes and didn't manage to get the extra pass away.
"If we're fifth in the world, we're in our rightful place and when we play the two best in the world, we're lacking something.
"It's up to us to progress to this level very quickly."
In the meantime, thought turned already to France's next match, at home to England in the Six Nations in February.
England are third in the world and Saint-Andre believes that is a realistic target for his team.
"In November 2012 we played the fourth best team in the world (Australia) and beat them," he said.
"In 2013 we played the best and second best and we struggled, but we've progressed.
"We have to beat the third best team, especially as it's in France because we need a result and to win.
"It's alright to keep learning but we need to be effective."
According to captain and flanker Thierry Dusautoir, France were beaten by South Africa's effectiveness at the breakdown.
"They were more solid than us in the rucks where they managed quite a few turnovers," said the Toulouse star.
"We had an important handicap from the beginning, so effectively between the try and the (missed) penalty we had 10 points to get back.
"We tried to catch up and we did a bit at the end of the first half (when a converted try brought the score back to 13-7).
"Over all they did better than us in the rucks, they slowed down our release and had more defensive pressure on us.
"What's hard to take is competing with these teams. We weren't ultra-dominated by the Boks, who are very strong, but we just gave them presents.
"With anxiety at this level, you need to fight from start to finish.
"We're not at their level but losing by seven points to the All Blacks and by nine to South Africa, we have to keep going.
"There's still something to add, our anxiety cost us the match."