CAPE TOWN • South Africa coach Allister Coetzee said his team could have beaten world champions New Zealand on Saturday in a thriller they lost 25-24, just three weeks after being humiliated in Auckland.
"I think we did enough to win the game, there were just two points needed for us to get over the line," said Coetzee. "It was really pleasing to come back from that 57-0 drubbing which we never felt defined this team."
But he admitted the methodology behind their impressive Rugby Championship final-round performance at a packed 52,000-capacity Newlands stadium would not necessarily work against other teams.
The Springboks pack was superb, carrying the ball ferociously, fighting hard on the gain-line and harrying the visitors at the breakdown.
He said: "It's not a perfect formula and I believe it's a positive that we can move between that direct style of play and using more width, and we can also pressure teams with our kicking game."
New Zealand, who won the Rugby Championship for the fifth time after winning their penultimate match against Argentina, finished on 28 points from a possible 30. Australia beat the Pumas 37-20 on Saturday to finish second.
To underline the the All Blacks' strength in depth, the exciting young backs Damian McKenzie and David Havili combined for a brilliant counter-attack try at a critical juncture when the Boks looked to have the momentum going into the final 10 minutes.
New Zealand coach Steve Hansen said South Africa could be very proud of their performance.
"Obviously I'm pleased any time we win - it's easier on the ticker when you win 57-0 - but it gives you greater pleasure when it's a real contest, and both sides played well tonight," he said after watching the All Blacks maintain their 100 per cent record.
As the All Blacks prepare for the next World Cup in 2019, where they will be aiming for an unprecedented hat-trick of titles, Hansen said he was pleased some of his younger players had been exposed to a high-pressure international.
"To see youngsters like David Havili and Damian McKenzie combine for the try that put us in front, that's not a bad sign," he added. "Some of our younger players have not been in that situation before - that when it is tough, you have to find a way."