Johannesburg - Ireland coach Joe Schmidt said a failure to halt the South Africa ball carriers in the final quarter proved fatal as his team lost the second Test 32-26 Saturday.
Sixteen points ahead with 16 minutes to go in Johannesburg, the Irish conceded three tries and were pegged back to 1-1 in the three-match series after a shock first Test triumph last weekend.
The teams clash again next Saturday in Port Elizabeth with Ireland seeking a first series win over the Springboks.
"They delivered an onslaught that we did not quite match up to," admitted Schmidt at a media conference after the dramatic Ellis Park international.
"We missed tackles and were unlucky at times, but the result was well and truly earned by the South African ball carriers.
"They really did take it to us and we were not quite up the task and that is incredibly disappointing after being 26-10 ahead within the last quarter after leading 19-3 at half-time."
After kicking four consecutive penalties, Irish fly-half Paddy Jackson narrowly missed two, either side of half-time, and Schmidt believed that had a negative impact.
"We just missed penalties before and after half-time which could have kept our confidence levels up and maybe delivered a little bit more of a blow to the South Africans.
"But the way they came back -- they were relatively irrepressible," the 50-year-old New Zealander conceded.
Schmidt said losing the second Test will slow the healing process ahead of the winners-take-all showdown in the Eastern Cape.
"Whenever you win it is a lot easier to bounce back, even if it is a physically tiring match," he explained.
"It will take us a couple of days, mentally, to get over the anguish of surrendering the lead we had and at the same time trying to work our way back to being fit enough to train fully."
Schmidt picked tighthead prop Tadhg Furling, South Africa-born lock Quinn Roux and centre Stuart Olding as three players who caught his eye.
"I thought Tadhg was great. It was an opportunity for him to demonstrate what he was capable of doing and I think everybody probably saw that he did just that.
"Quinn gave us 50 minutes of real ballast in the scrums, he got around the park and he made sure that we were not losing those collisions.
"The first three tackles of Stuart were really decisive and allowed us to set our defensive line either side of him in that tackle area. That was really satisfying."
Centre Robbie Henshaw could become an injury concern ahead of the Port Elizabeth Test after taking a knock to the knee during the second half.