Graham Henry reacted to New Zealand's 21-20 Tri-Nations defeat in Rustenberg on Saturday by saying his team had been "not as hungry" as the Springboks.
The defeat, sealed by Andre Pretorius' late penalty, stopped Henry's men's winning run on 15, two short of the Test record set by Colin Meads' All Blacks between 1966 and 1969.
"When you've won 15 in a row human nature ensures you're not as hungry as a team like the Springboks were," Henry said. "We've had a great year and we wanted to finish with a clean slate, but they had greater desire than us. They were up against it and they did the business."
South Africa's Jake White said: "It probably keeps the wolves from my door for a week." Five defeats in a row, White's interest in the England élite rugby director job and controversy over "transformation" - picking black players - have put the Springbok coach under pressure.
"If you consider where we were a couple of weeks ago," he said - referring to a 49-0 annihilation by Australia and other calamities - "this is one of our biggest wins as a group." South Africa conclude the Tri-Nations against Australia in Johannesburg next week.Reuse content