Cape Town - The Stormers' Qualifier loss to the Brumbies at Newlands last weekend signalled the end of the road for South Africa in this year's Super Rugby competition.
Apart from the Capetonians reaching the playoffs and the Lions claiming a franchise record number of wins, it was another bleak year for South Africa in this competition.
Sport24's Herman Mostert reviewed the performances of all five South African contingents in this year's event:
Position: 3rd (lost in qualifiers)
Review: Following their humiliating loss to the Brumbies at Newlands, coach Allister Coetzee was quick to note his team had won the South African conference for the third time since 2011.
However, if it wasn’t for the conference system rule - which assures each of the three conference winners an automatic spot into the playoffs - the Stormers would have finished seventh and outside a playoff berth.
Their scrum was the best in the competition, but it’s a pity there were so many flaws in the rest of their game, with lineouts, defence and tactical kicking well below par throughout.
A change in strategy is needed and whoever comes in to replace Coetzee as head coach next year will have a tough task at hand.
Standout player: Loosehead prop Steven Kitshoff was the cornerstone of the powerful Stormers scrum. Alongside Frans Malherbe and Vincent Koch, the Capetonians boasted the best scrum in the competition this year.
It will be a travesty if Kitshoff does not make his Springbok debut this year.
His move to Bordeaux-Begles in the French Top 14 will be dearly felt by the Stormers next year.
Rating - 6/10: The Stormers get 60% only because they won the South African conference, but their inability to “pitch up” in knockout games remains a major concern.
Review: It was another promising season for the men from Johannesburg, who achieved a franchise record of nine victories.
If it wasn’t for a sluggish start - which saw them lose their first three games - Johan Ackermann’s charges would have reached the playoffs.
They won three out of four matches on their Australasian tour - the best by any SA team - and entertained with their enterprising approach, something the other SA teams would do well to replicate.
Standout player: Captain courageous Warren Whiteley led from the front. He topped the competition’s tackle stats (231), with his nearest rival, the Cheetahs’ Boom Prinsloo, in a distant second with 188 tackles.
The Lions seem a happy bunch under Whiteley as leader and it wouldn’t surprise me if he captains at a higher level in the near future...
Rating - 7/10: The Lions deserve a higher rating than the Stormers because they achieved more than expected. They don’t possess player resources similar to that of the Capetonians and deserve plaudits for the way they play the game. They are fast becoming everybody’s "second best team"...
Review: It was another disappointing season for the men from Pretoria, who for the second successive season lost all four matches on tour.
Their approach remains too one-dimensional and predictable and coach Frans Ludeke did the right thing in stepping down after their campaign ended.
The Bulls will lose numerous key players which will leave the new coach with some serious challengers for the 2016 season.
They have some talented backline players, but the approach opted by their coaching staff inhibits players from expressing themselves and realising their full potential.
Standout player: Fullback Jesse Kriel was a rare shining light in a miserable season for the Bulls. The former Baby Bok was a step ahead of his team-mates from a skills perspective. He is fast, has an eye for a gap, is sound under the high ball, and appears destined for higher honours.
The performance of scrumhalf Rudy Paige - who shone above Springbok Piet van Zyl - also deserves a mention.
Rating - 5/10: Failing to at least reach the playoffs will always be a disappointment for the three-time former Super Rugby champions.
Review: It was a terrible season for the Sharks in Gary Gold’s first season in charge. Apart from poor performances on the field, they disgraced themselves with several disciplinary embarrassments.
Skipper Bismarck du Plessis was banned for four weeks for kicking an opposing player in the face, utility back Frans Steyn copped five weeks for a tip tackle, while loose forward Jean Deysel was banned for seven weeks for kneeing a player in the back of the head.
Du Plessis quit as captain upon his return to action, but by then the Sharks’ season was already in ruins.
Standout player: Springbok flank Marcell Coetzee stood out head and shoulders above the rest of his team-mates and is one of very few Sharks players able to hold his head high. His work-rate was second to none and his commitment should set an example for a few other senior players.
Rating - 3/10: Winning their last three games on the trot saved the men from Durban from the wooden spoon in the South African conference, but it was not enough to “save face” in a forgettable season.
Review: The Cheetahs promised much when they upset the Sharks in their first game in Durban, but things went awry after that, before under-fire coach Naka Drotske eventually quit in the latter stages of the competition.
It must be mentioned that key stalwarts like Heinrich Brussow, Lood de Jager and Willie le Roux were injured for large parts of the campaign and played a part in the Cheetahs' demise.
Apart from the win over the Sharks, their fans will take heart from victories over the Stormers (home) and Bulls (away). Their defence though remains well below par and new coach Franco Smith has a tough task at hand.
Standout player: Loose forward Boom Prinsloo had a terrific season. He scored numerous tries off the back of driving mauls. His eight tries left him just three off the competition’s leading try-scorer, Highlanders wing Waisake Naholo.
Prinsloo’s 188 tackles is also the second most in the competition, behind Warren Whiteley’s 231.
Rating - 3/10: Wins were few and far in between for the Cheetahs, who simply have too many weaknesses and not enough depth to compete deep into such a gruelling competition.