Cape Town - The disappointed Springboks rued ‘soft moments’ that cost them a famous double over world No 1 New Zealand, but came away with burgeoning self-belief, despite a heart-breaking two-point defeat (32-30) in a Rugby Championship clash at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria on Saturday.
The Springboks held a 12-point advantage going into the final five minutes but the never-say-die All Blacks scored two converted tries in the dying moments of the game to claim a famous victory.
The Boks finished 2nd in the Rugby Championship but, more importantly, they have gone toe-to-toe with the All Blacks in this competition having beaten them in Wellington last month.
According to coach Rassie Erasmus, the Boks are on the right track.
"I’m definitely happy with the progress and the growth we have shown," Erasmus said after the loss in Pretoria.
"South African rugby fans are not stupid and there will be criticism of this defeat, but we have shown growth and we will cling on to that.
"The last three games between us have been decided by no more than two points and when we run out against them now, the game can go either way. I’m proud we’ve got back to that position.
"It gives me hope that and belief that if we do a few things right we will be in with a real chance at the next year’s World Cup."
Erasmus said that the deciding factor on Saturday was probably New Zealand’s greater experience in tight games.
"I remember from when I was in Ireland, seeing New Zealand come back against the Irish from an impossible positon so I never thought the game was in the bag, even with five minutes to go," he said.
"That’s New Zealand’s culture, that’s how they do things and that’s where we have to get to. We will learn from this."
The Springboks are next in action against England at Twickenham on November 3.