Retiring South African scrum-half Joost van der Westhuizen said he was upbeat about the future of Springbok rugby, despite their exit from the World Cup.
New Zealand beat South Africa 29-9 in their quarter-final in Melbourne to bring down the curtain on the 32-year-old's 11-year Test career.
Van der Westhuizen, South Africa's most-capped player and a key member of the World Cup-winning side on home soil in 1995, admitted he was disappointed for his team-mates.
"It's not about sadness for ending my career, it's sadness for losing the match. That's the sad part," said Van der Westhuizen, who won 89 caps for South Africa.
"We came out here committed to winning the World Cup. It's all about losing the Cup. It's not about me."
But Van der Westhuizen predicted a successful future for the Springboks, provided the nucleus of the present side remained intact.
"I'm personally very excited. If you look at the age of our team - besides mine - it's a young side.
"And the way the youngsters came through, the way they prepared themselves, I'm very excited to see what's going to happen in the next four years to South African rugby.
"But that's only if they keep the squad together and work with these players. From what I've seen, from inside the camp, I'm smiling for the future."
South African team manager Gideon Sam echoed Van der Westhuizen's sentiments about unity.
And he stressed the need to retain Rudolf Straeuli as coach - the Springboks' ninth in 11 years.
"I would urge all our rugby supporters back home to get it into their minds that if we really want to get into the top of world rugby, stability is unquestionable," said Sam.
"I can only plead with management at the top level - give them a chance to build so that in the future we can be a respected nation."
The pair's next job will be to face the King Commission investigating racist allegations made by former Springbok media manager Mark Keohane on the eve of the tournament.
The issue was brought to a head following allegations that lock Geo Cronje refused to share a room with black team-mate Quinton Davids.
"There's some unfinished business we need to attend to next week," van der Westhuizen admitted.
"But I've accepted a position at a television station in South Africa and I'm going to be one big happy family man.
"From my side all I can say is thank you. It was great to be part of world rugby."