Injured Springbok skipper Jean de Villiers was left a dejected captain and player after the poor 12-6 defeat to Wales in Cardiff yesterday.
It was the Boks first loss to Wales since 1999 and only the second time in history they have gone down to the Red Dragons.
“Losing is never nice and it hurt us to lose against Wales, but they also deserve a lot of credit for their performance,” said De Villiers.
“It was a disappointing way to end the year and not how we envisaged it, but we know where we stand and what needs to be done next year,” said De Villiers.
The Bok captain, who also missed the three Tests in June because of a knee injury, which included twice meeting Wales and playing Scotland once as well as the non-Test against a World XV at Newlands in the Boks’ first outing of the year, said it was not the way they wanted to end their season.
“We’ll keep our heads down and keep on working hard to ensure we give ourselves every chance to lift the Webb Ellis Cup next year,” said De Villiers.
The Boks lost two from four on tour which started with a 29-15 defeat to Ireland, before beating England 31-28 and Italy 22-6.
They however have won 9 from 13, with their other losses, albeit by a one-point and four-point cushion, coming against Australia and New Zealand in away Test matches during the Rugby Championship.
They will also be without the services of the retired Bakkies Botha and Jaque Fourie next year, but will welcome back the likes of Fourie du Preez, Willem Alberts, Flip van der Merwe, Jannie du Plessis and Francois Louw who count among a group of 25 players who were not available for the end-of-the-year tour due to injury.
Despite the loss, coach Heyneke Meyer maintained that it was a good year for the Springbok rugby team.
The Boks have won 9 from 13 Tests and all four of their defeats have come away from home with no losses suffered at home which included memorable victories of 28-10 over Australia at Newlands and a 27-25 win over the All Blacks at Ellis Park, their first over New Zealand since 2011.
Two Springboks, Duane Vermeulen and Willie le Roux, were nominated for the World Player of the Year Award, while Francois Hougaard walked away with the IRPA Try of the Year Award for his sublime five-pointer against the All Blacks at Ellis Park. Hendricks was also nominated for this award.
“The victory over New Zealand in Johannesburg was very important. We recorded good wins over England in London, Australia in Cape Town, Scotland in Port Elizabeth and Wales in Durban, while we also had to dig deep against Argentina in Salta and Wales in Nelspruit.
“With all the injuries to key players, and our overseas-based players not available at stages during the season, we were also forced to build our depth, which can be seen as a positive.
It was also the Springboks’ first unbeaten season at home since 2005, which included a 30-30 draw against France under previous Bok coach Jake White.
The Springboks won 10 out of their 14 matches in 2014, which include a non-Test against a World XV at Newlands, for a winning percentage of 71%.
South Africa scored 44 tries in total during the season, while their defensive effort was also very good in conceding only 19 tries, or 1.4 per game which equates to the best defence by the Boks in 15 years.
“Statistics showed us the year before a World Cup is always tough and our aim was to work hard and ensure we still perform well,” said Meyer.
“We learnt valuable lessons from the defeats in Cardiff and Dublin, while we came very close in Perth and Auckland. Although the season wasn’t perfect, I think we’ve still done well.
Meyer said before the season he knew the year before a World Cup is always tough and the performance this season compares very well with 2002 (winning percentage of 45%), 2006 (42%) and 2010 (57%).
“We have nine months of very hard work ahead before we head out to England for the Rugby World Cup. We’re going to keep our feet on the ground and put in every effort, because we want to make our country proud next year.
“We would like to thank our supporters in South Africa and abroad for backing us every week, it really means a lot to us as a team and we value the effort they put in to get behind us.”