Brian O’Driscoll was left with plenty of regrets following the conclusion of the Rugby World Cup, which saw South Africa take home the Webb Ellis Cup.
The Ireland legend was speaking on the Off The Ball podcast after Andy Farrell’s men exited at the quarter-final stage.
They went into the World Cup as the number one side in the game, a position they had held for the 13 months previous, but they fell just short.
Ireland’s victory in the group stages
Ireland won that clash 13-8 against the Boks before they hammered Scotland to confirm top spot in their group, nicknamed the ‘pool of death’.
That meant they faced New Zealand, who finished second behind hosts France in Pool A, in the quarter-finals.
Farrell’s charges went into the match as slight favourites but it was the All Blacks who prevailed and eventually reached the final, where they finished as runners-up to South Africa.
“My overriding feeling watching the game at the weekend was, ‘this really could have been us’ and that’s so frustrating,” O’Driscoll said.
“If we were to play New Zealand another 10 times, we might win five. If you get that win, you do beat Argentina.
“You play against a team that you’ve beaten in the pool stages and that you don’t have a great fear factor of.”
South Africa’s remarkable run
The Springboks showed their strength of character to win all of their World Cup knockout stages by a single point.
They defeated hosts France 29-28 in the quarter-finals before backing that up with victories over England (16-15) and New Zealand (12-11), the latter of which sealed their fourth Webb Ellis Cup.
O’Driscoll credited South Africa’s immense mental strength as they somehow managed to get over the line on each occasion.
“We didn’t get it done, they did and they’re the ones that deserve all the plaudits,” he added.
“In the tight margin games, they showed the knowhow to hold their bottle when they really needed to, particularly Handre Pollard kicking a goal in the semi-final with four minutes to go. That’s something you have to tip your cap to.”