It was a disappointing end to the tournament in which South Africa won five consecutive games, including beating the All Blacks Sevens in pool play on Saturday and a good win over Fiji in the semi-finals, but Ngcobo said they expected more in the final on Sunday.

“We lost the physical battle and that reflects on our attitude in the final. We were not where we needed to be and we were simply not good enough in the final to win,” was his frank review.

“Yes, we had a bad patch with injuries to Siviwe Soyizwapi (day one) and Ryan Oosthuizen (day two), and then Jaiden Baron and Impi Visser (day three), which may have caught up with us in the final, but that is no excuse.

“We did not do ourselves justice in the final. But I have to give credit to the team, who came into Sunday with a great attitude and a wonderful performance against Fiji.”

Ngcobo said the growth of the squad this month shows a positive and upward curve: “If I look where we were when we started at the beginning of the year, how we improved from last week in Hamilton and how we played here, that was massive and those are the things coaches are looking for.

“We also had players coming back from injury and to see them perform well was another bonus for us. From that perspective, the log position is almost a bonus. We are still growing as a group and we will be looking to improve even more going into the next tournament in Los Angeles next month.”

The early injuries meant that the 25-year-old Zain Davids, who was playing in his 36th World Series tournament, was suddenly the most experienced player amongst a rash of younger players left on the third day.

“The injuries sustained during the tournament was unfortunate, but not an excuse,” said Davids.

“We were without guys like Selvyn (Davids), Ronald (Brown), ‘Shakes’ (Soyizwapi) and Ryan, but we are still playing for that Springbok badge and our performances must reflect that at all times. That is all that matters.”

For Davids, the defeat in the final was frustrating: “We lost to ourselves. We did not pitch up mentally or physically for the final, nor did we follow the game plan we had.

“That is frustrating, to be honest. Yes, we played five good games, but when it mattered, we let ourselves down. We knew what New Zealand would bring, but somehow we did not respond to their challenge the way I know we can.”

Davids said it’s not all doom and gloom though.

“We did a lot of things right this weekend, but we also made telling mistakes,” he said.

“That gives us something to aim for when we get back home, to go and fix those things and make it better. We have our goals as a team and we will have to make sure we all align to those next time we play.”

Ricardo Duarttee was the leading points scorer for the Blitzboks with 34 points, while Shilton van Wyk led the try scoring stakes, dotting down six times, while Dalvon Blood and Baron bagged three tries each.

Duarttee (13) also made the most tackles this weekend, followed by Van Wyk (11), Blood and Davids (10 each).

World Series standings after five tournaments:

1 New Zealand – 85 points
2 South Africa – 76
3 Samoa – 68
4 France – 68
5 Fiji – 67
6 Argentina – 67
7 USA – 66
8 Australia – 62
9 Ireland – 58
10 Great Britain – 35