South Africa captain Jean de Villiers hailed the current Test outfit as one of the best in the country's history after they defeated France.
South Africa captain Jean de Villiers hailed the current Test outfit as one of the best in the country's history after they ended 2013 with 10 wins from 12.
The Springboks put in a polished and controlled performance at the Stade de France on Saturday and never looked likely to lose to the hosts after JP Pietersen's second minute try after the wing had charged down Morgan Parra's poor kick.
France struggled to put much pressure on the Springboks despite Yoann Huget's try at the end of the first half and played most of the match in their own half before losing 19-10 in Paris.
It meant South Africa finished their November tour with three wins out of three and have only been beaten by one team this year, New Zealand.
“We're very happy with the last 12 months, if you take the end of the last year as well, that's 13 (wins) from 15,” said De Villeirs.
“It makes it results-wise one of the best years South African rugby's had in a very long time.
“To really be honest, and not sound arrogant, we didn't play well tonight (Saturday) from a performance point of view. That's not what we wanted to achieve but this game was just about winning it first of all.
“Secondly, we haven't won here (in France) in 16 years. We've got massive respect for the French and what they've achieved over the years. We knew it would be ugly tonight but just had to win.”
The result, on the back of a 24-15 victory against Six Nations champions Wales and 28-0 stuffing of Scotland, cemented South Africa's status as the second best side in the world.
In fact, their only two defeats have come against the best but De Villiers says this tour has been part of the process of trying to catch up with the All Blacks.
“For us it's not the end of the year, it's just another step in our journey towards where we want to be and where we're going,” he added.
“We're happy with the result. It's six months before we play again and when we meet together again, we hope to just keep on improving.”
Head coach Heyneke Meyer was delighted with the character shown by his players.
“I'm very proud of my team,” he said.
“Willem (Alberts) shouldn't have played, he was injured, he was 50-50 until just before the game. Then to come up with a performance where I'm really asking for one big game and to come out man of the match shows the character of this team.
“Then you have a guy like Bakkies Botha, I took a lot of criticism bringing him in. When the youngster Eben (Etzebeth) got injured, Bakkies came on and was unbelievable today.
“Jannie du Plessis got injured and Coenie (Oosthuizen) started at tighthead and was awesome today.
“The great thing in this team is if they're wearing the green and gold, if they're injured it doesn't matter, young or old they always put their bodies on the line. I'm very proud of them.”