Smit and De Viliers have no regrets after the champions dominated the Wallabies in just about every way, but could not make it count.
Coach-captain content as South Africa bow out of Rugby World Cup
WELLINGTON // John Smit, the South Africa captain, and Peter de Villiers, the coach, ended their careers overseeing a dominant display at the Rugby World Cup.
Unfortunately for them, the dominance did not stretch to the scoreboard, and their stints with the Springboks ended with an 11-9 defeat to Australia.
The World Cup champions dominated the Wallabies in just about every way yesterday at Wellington Regional Stadium, but just could not make it count.
"You are never prepared for when it ends, because you want it to be a fairy tale, you want it to be in a final having won it," said Smit after 111 Tests over 11 years. "It hasn't worked out like that."
If he left any kind of legacy, Smit said, he hoped it would be the influence he has exerted over his teammates, and the influence they have had over him.
Smit said he hoped that in the future, players might look at the challenges facing them and ask: "Well, what would Smitty have done in this situation?"
The pair both showed obvious emotion as they answered questions less than an hour after the final whistle, but De Villiers managed to show the humour that illuminated his four years in charge. "It's not a funeral, eh", De Villiers said.
A black man coaching in a sport that is traditionally white in South Africa, De Villiers faced charges throughout his time with the Springboks that his appointment owed more to tokenism than to talent.
But he said it had been a "brilliant journey" to be able to work with people who were so passionate about their country.
"People who always put their body on the line to try to bring hope for the poor people back at home who don't have the privilege that most of you guys have," De Villiers said. "It was really incredible for me all the way."
At least the pair ended with a performance - if not a result - they could be proud of.
They spent more than three-quarters of the game in Australian territory and dominated possession. Smit said it was the only time he could remember dominating a game in every statistical way but on the scoreboard.
* Associated Press