LEICESTER (REUTERS) - Rohan Kitshoff says Namibia leave the Rugby World Cup with their heads held high as thoughts turn to a new beginning and the next four-year cycle leading up to the 2019 tournament in Japan.
He captained the side in Sunday's 64-19 defeat against Argentina, bring to a close a campaign in which the African team lost all four games but proved more competitive than in previous years.
Namibia claimed a first-ever World Cup point against Georgia in their fifth finals appearance and came close to another on Sunday as they ran in three tries against a rampant Argentina.
But as is often the case with major tournaments, the World Cup will provide a watershed for Namibia, who will lose influential players such as regular skipper Jacques Burger, Jaco Engels and Johnny Redelinghuys to retirement.
Kitshoff, who hopes to be given the captaincy on a permanent basis, said the side has gained much from their experience in England and that most of their goals - bar a first World Cup win - have been achieved.
"I am tremendously proud of the guys. Although we lost, we fought hard to the end again," he told reporters on Sunday.
"We have learnt such a lot at this tournament. Even if you don't win, there is a lot to be learnt from defeat and we have gained a tremendous amount of experience. We have three 20-year-olds in our squad and for them this tournament has been massive. That is something we will take away.
"We saw in this tournament how we have closed the gap. We almost beat Georgia and we played very well at times."
The future of coach Phil Davies, who has hinted he would like to remain at the helm, is uncertain, but Kitshoff says the signs for his side are promising and he hopes to be a part of the team that builds towards Japan.
"It would be a great privilege for me to be involved for the next four years. We are making such great strides," Kitshoff said. "The most important thing is for us is to keep playing competitive rugby and keep playing teams that are above us in the rankings. That is the way to improve."