South Africa coach Heyneke Meyer apologised for the third time in three months on Saturday after his side gave up the lead to the All Blacks in the World Cup semi-final.
Meyer was disappointed that the Springboks failed to take advantage of a 12-7 midpoint lead and a one-man advantage to get a place in the final.
“We should have capitalised on it,” he said.
“I want to thank all the people for their support, I am really sorry we let them down today,” he added after the 20-18 defeat at a rain-sodden Twickenham.
Meyer made a public apology in August when the Springboks lost at home to Argentina for the first time. He apologised to the nation at the start of the World Cup when the South Africans lost their first match to Japan 34-32 – the biggest shock in the tournament’s history.
“I am very proud, a lot of people didn’t give us a chance (after Japan),” said Meyer.
But he insisted: “Only a win is good enough for South Africa. I don’t believe in loser talk.”
Meyer, under immense pressure after the Japan loss, was non-committal about his own future, saying only: “I am here to serve.”
The coach said South Africa “had a perfect first half, with the right game plan.” South Africa led at the break thanks to four penalties from fly-half Handre Pollard that topped a converted try by New Zealand flanker Jerome Kaino.
“But our discipline in the second half was just not good enough. They coped better with the weather in the second half,” he added.
“Discipline was the most important thing today, especially in these rainy conditions.
“We wanted to make our country proud but we didn’t. We should have pulled this win through but all credit to the All Blacks, they are a quality side.”
Captain Fourie du Preez was left heartbroken by the narrow score.
“Just two points. But credit to both teams,” he said. “They kept the pressure on us. We struggled to get out of our own half.”
Springbok great Schalk Burger was also disconsolate. “We created opportunities today, unfortunately for us we came up two points short,” he said. “I’ve seen this movie before and it’s bloody horrible.”
That Burger, a 2007 World Cup-winner, played at all this tournament was impressive given that only two years ago he was diagnosed with bacterial meningitis before overcoming the potentially life-threatening condition.
“Two years ago, it was not possible for me to be in the semi-final,” said Burger.
“It’s painful tonight but one day when I am older it will be easy to reflect (on the achievement).”