By Nick Said
JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - South Africa's disappointment following their 38-27 loss to New Zealand in the Rugby Championship on Saturday was tempered by the belief that the Springboks will continue to improve and pose an even greater challenge next year, coach Heyneke Meyer said.
Saturday's title decider, a frenzied spectacle that included nine tries, saw South Africa become the first side to score four against the All Blacks since 2010.
While there is no doubt they are still some way short of replacing New Zealand as the world's number one side, Meyer took consolation in a much improved showing in the Southern Hemisphere competition as he builds towards the 2015 World Cup.
"It was a much better championship than last year," Meyer told reporters. "We had a record win over Argentina and then beat them for the first time in Mendoza.
"We had an epic game against Australia in Brisbane, also a record win in that country, and then beat the Wallabies by a record margin in Cape Town last week."
This season's Rugby Championship has cemented the Springboks' place as the second best side in the world.
Meyer said the improvement from last year, when they won just two of their six matches, has come from their ability to open up the opposition in attack, a better consistency in their set-pieces, particularly the scrums, and a greater understanding of the breakdown area.
"This is the best attack that I have been involved with," he added. "I thought in going for four tries (against New Zealand) we stayed clinical. We had the right mindset, this is a team that wants to not just win matches, but also win the Rugby Championship."
Meyer said if South Africa can continue to progress they would be a frightening prospect for any team.
"If we can improve year-on-year like this, then I'm scared to think about where this team can go," he said.
"I truly believe that with this team we can become something really special. I hope we can make the step up again next year."