If it had been any other match, Springbok captain Adriaan Strauss would surely have received a standing ovation as he left the field in his final Test match on home soil.
That was supposed to be a special moment for the 32-year-old, but when he was substituted in Durban on Saturday, the Boks were already 43-15 down against the All Blacks.
The Kings Park crowd, who were immense for as long as their side was in the game, gave Strauss a warm applause, but it was a moment that certainly should have meant more as the 63-Test veteran played his final Test in South Africa.
By the end, the Boks went down 57-15 in what was their biggest ever loss to the All Blacks.
Strauss, who had said all week that this match was not about him, gave more of the same in his post-match press conference.
“This is not about my last Test. This is about the Springboks and it’s not good enough,” Strauss said.
“Credit to the All Blacks. They outclassed us, especially in the last 20-odd minutes. We fought quite hard to hang in there, but we were outclassed and outplayed.”
Strauss said he could not fault the work ethic of his players, saying they were well up for the match, and he also said he remained positive about the future of South African rugby.
“I definitely don’t question their commitment,” he said.
“If you look to the future I think we have a lot of talented players that might be a bit young and inexperienced, but I’m still very positive about the future of South African rugby.
“Tonight wasn’t our night, definitely not. We take it on the chin … but there is no time for feeling sorry for ourselves. We need to bounce back as a team and now is the time to show character and the resilience that we’ve spoken about in the past.”
Strauss will be available for the Boks on their end of year tour to the northern hemisphere, where he is expected to captain once more, but he will be retiring from international rugby after that.