For the Scots, defeat by South Africa could be the prelude to a Rugby World Cup disaster, but in the immediate aftermath, there was an air of defiance around the camp. "We will be in the third tier of seeds, but nobody will fancy being in our pool," was a typical reaction – in this case from Stuart Hogg, their young full-back.
The position mirrors that of four years ago. Then, as now, the Scots could have climbed into the top eight in the world rankings by beating South Africa but failed to do so. They went into the World Cup draw in December as a third tier side, got England and Argentina in their group, lost to both countries and, for the first time in the tournament's history, came home at the end of the pool stage.
"We are not far away at all, we are going in the right direction and are building from our horrendous Six Nations," maintained Hogg. "I hope we can just keep climbing up and climbing up. I think every team is going to be looking to avoid us in the World Cup. We are definitely going in the right direction and one day somebody is going to get an absolute trouncing from us; I hope it starts next week."
The Scots play Tonga in Aberdeen next week, with Samoa's performance against Wales ringing all kinds of alarm bells amidst the knowledge that, were they to lose, they would drop out of the top 10 altogether, adding spice and relevance to the encounter.
It will be task made that much tougher by the possibility that Richie Gray, the towering lock who went off in the 21-10 defeat to the Sprinboks on Saturday with concussion, may miss the next game as a result.
"We've got to learn lessons from the last two games played – and quickly," was the reaction from Sean Lamont, the wing.
"We can hopefully finish the campaign with a win against Tonga. To be honest at the moment it's just about wins – it always is with Scotland. We've missed out on two good chances already, simply by not doing the things we were supposed to do."
The frustration for players and coaches alike was that for the first 50 minutes on Saturday they did not play as they had in training – or were not allowed to play that way as South Africa bullied them out of the game – but that once they got it right, they demonstrated that they were more than capable of living with second-ranked team in the world.
"The physicality of their defence put our decision-making under that little bit of extra pressure," acknowledged Andy Robinson, the Scotland head coach.
"We have shown that we can perform against the two best sides in the world, but we have also shown that if we don't do it for 80 minutes it will count against you.
"They gave us a master-class in how to dominate territory and how to take the sting out of the other side," added Robinson.
In the meantime, he says he is not even thinking about the World Cup draw. Tonga is suddenly looming as a vital challenge to regain the confidence built up during the unbeaten summer tour.Reuse content