Coach Jacques Nienaber admitted world champions South Africa have yet to hit the level of play that took them to the Rugby World Cup title in 2019 despite handing New Zealand a late defeat in their final Rugby Championship clash on Saturday.
Elton Jantjies' after-the-hooter penalty earned the Springboks a 31-29 win over the All Blacks to clinch second place in the competition behind Ian Foster's team and reclaim the number one spot in the world rankings.
The South Africans were returning to the competition after missing last year's edition due to the pandemic and Nienaber was delighted to have the opportunity to face New Zealand, Australia and Argentina once again.
"It's just amazing to play against our SANZAAR partners again," he said.
"We missed out in 2020 and they bring a different style of play, a different mentality of play, which is something that is always nice to compete against because it's a little bit different to other countries.
"They bring a different skill set and a different risk appetite to the game, which is phenomenal.
"For us it's been a tough four weeks. Obviously we lost momentum in not securing victories in the first three games and, in fairness, if you look at it that's the margins when number one, two and three in the world play against each other."
The Springboks won twice against Argentina in South Africa before losing back-to-back clashes with the Australians once the tournament reconvened in Queensland.
They then slipped to a narrow 19-17 defeat in their first meeting with New Zealand last weekend, only to bounce back with Saturday's victory over the All Blacks.
"It's good exposure for our game, getting used to games where you're going to play the World Cup quarter-finals, semi-finals, final," Nienaber said. "This will be the pressure you'll be under.
"I don't think we're at the level we were at in 2019 yet due to the fact we haven't played a lot of international rugby in 2020, so we're not where we want to be yet," he said.
"But this momentum will help building forward."
(Reporting by Michael Church; Editing by Christopher Cushing)