Johannesburg - Coach Heyneke Meyer believes South Africa can beat anyone at the Rugby World Cup despite suffering a second successive Rugby Championship loss Saturday.
Richie McCaw caught the Springboks napping at a lineout to score a late try and give New Zealand a come-from-behind 27-20 victory before a sell-out 63 000 crowd in Johannesburg.
Defeat for the Springboks came one week after they conceded an even later try to fall 24-20 against Australia in Brisbane.
South Africa host Argentina on August 8 in their final southern hemisphere championship fixture and play a Test in Buenos Aires a week later before the mid-September World Cup kick-off in England.
Meyer, lacking several likely first-choices because of injuries, exuded confidence even though his side suffered a sixth defeat in seven matches against the All Blacks.
"The mental strength and attitude of the squad bodes well for the World Cup," he said. "The guys know they can beat anyone.
"We came within inches of beating the All Blacks and the Wallabies and that is a massive improvement when you consider where we were just after the 2015 Super Rugby competition."
For the first time since 2003, no South African franchise reached the Super Rugby semi-finals with the Stormers losing a home playoff against the Waratahs.
"I know we are inches away from clicking after producing some brilliant attacking play at times," said Meyer after an absorbing clash with New Zealand on a cold southern hemisphere winter evening.
"We are progressing well and it will be a very fit and strong squad of 31 that travels to England during September."
Meyer, who took the Springbok reins when the contract of Peter de Villiers was not renewed following a 2011 World Cup quarter-finals exit, said injuries disrupted his plans against world champions New Zealand.
"I had to use the bench much earlier than we wanted because of injuries to Jannie du Plessis, Vincent Koch, Lood de Jager and Francois Louw.
"Both our starting tighthead prop (Du Plessis) and his replacement (Koch) had to go off at times when we were scrumming well.
"Lood was also really good considering this was only his second game in a long time, and we lost Francois when dominating the breakdowns."
Meyer hailed No 8 Schalk Burger, who stood in as skipper as first-choice Jean de Villiers and deputy Victor Matfield were unavailable and excelled in the loose.
Recalled flank Heinrich Brussow, starting for the first time since Meyer took charge, and young, two-cap outside centre Jesse Kriel were also praised by the coach.
South Africa are in Pool B at the World Cup with Japan, Samoa, Scotland and the United States, and could face New Zealand in the semi-finals.