South Africa coach Jacques Nienaber believed their pre-match target of a bonus-point win by 39 points was achievable but the Springboks lost crucial momentum at the end of the first half in their 38-21 Rugby Championship win over Argentina.
The Boks needed to win big to catch New Zealand at the top of the standings and took a 17-0 lead in the first half at King's Park in Durban, but ultimately fell short as the All Blacks claimed the trophy.
Nienaber was left to rue a scrappy try for Argentina at the end of the opening period in which his side defended poorly and, he said, it changed the momentum of the contest.
"We had a plan and we were on task up to the 35th minute," he told reporters. "We gave away a penalty then and they got into our half. We made a few mistakes and they scored a try just before halftime.
"That changed the momentum of the game and it made it much harder for us after that. Before then we felt the plan was working."
Nienaber said his side's stop-start display was not down to a lack of effort or desire to chase the imposing winning target.
"We needed to get a 39-point winning margin to win the trophy, and we all bought into it. The guys gave full effort out there, I don't think anyone could fault the effort.
"In the end we came up short, but you can never take a win in the Springbok jersey for granted, victory is always special, so we are glad we came out on the right side of today's result even if we didn't get what we needed to win the Championship."
South Africa now embark on a tour of Europe in November, where they play Ireland, France, Italy and England, the last of those matches outside of the international window.
"We play the number one and number two in the world in the first two games of the tour. So it will be challenging for us," Nienaber said.
"We will get a good idea where we are (ahead of next year's World Cup) on the end of year tour."
In the other dressing shed Argentina captain Julian Montoya says his side have to learn from their errors if they are to move forward as a team and bemoaned their poor discipline in their 38-21 Rugby Championship loss to South Africa in Durban on Saturday.
Victories in New Zealand and at home to Australia have made this arguably the best ever southern hemisphere championship for Montoya's side but it may also be a case of what might have been had they held their discipline at key moments in the campaign.
They rattled the Springboks in the second half and the scoreline perhaps flattered the hosts but 22 penalties conceded, four yellow cards and two penalty tries tell the story of Argentina wilting under pressure.
"We could see that when we did the things we wanted to, we were in the match and anyone could win," Montoya told ESPN Scrum. "We have to learn, I have to learn. We can no longer talk about the same thing (discipline).
"We can't give away easy penalties and due to the accumulation of penalties we end up with yellow cards. We have to not just say we must improve but do it.
"You look at yourself first, then continue building and continue the process. There have been many good things and a lot of other things to correct."
The hooker felt it was a missed opportunity in Durban with his side within three points of the Boks into the final quarter of the game.
"We respect who they are but have to trust ourselves more and know that we can beat them. In fact, there was a time that we dominated a lot.
"We have to continue like that - every minute counts, every action counts, every decision we make on the pitch counts. But I am very proud of the team for how they responded to various situations."