South Africa coach Jake White said his side were more upset by their last-gasp 20-18 loss to Australia in Sydney on Saturday than the 49-0 drubbing at the hands of the Wallabies three weeks earlier.

The young Springboks had shown great character by rebounding from that record loss in Brisbane but were still heartbroken by the defeat on Saturday, White said.

"All we've heard about for the last three weeks is '49-nil, 49-nil,' so you've got to give credit to the players to turn a game around like that," he told a news conference.

"But the players are still hurting about losing and as long as that continues then you know you're dealing with the right group of players.

"This one hurts the most because it's the most consecutive times we've lost and is the most we've been abused in the media."

The Springboks looked set for an unlikely victory when they overturned a 10-0 half-time deficit to lead 18-13 with less than five minutes to go after centre Jaque Fourie and fullback Percy Montgomery crossed for tries in the second half.

But the Australians snatched victory four minutes from the end when replacement flyhalf Mat Rogers scored out wide and Stirling Mortlock's sideline conversion bounced off the upright and over the crossbar.

White said his team's experience over the past month reminded him of a comment by former Australian cricket captain Steve Waugh, who once said, "You can't appreciate the views from the peaks until you've seen the troughs from the valleys".

"I never understood what he meant, but as a national coach I now clearly understand what he's talking about," White said.

"It's been a great learning curve for us even if it's obviously not been pleasant."

Springbok captain John Smit said he expected his team would be more competitive when they returned home for the final leg of the Tri-Nations and the experience of losing may yet pay off at the 2007 World Cup in France.

"There's a lot of pride in this team and a lot more to come," Smit said. "Everything we do is in view of what's coming in 2007.

"This year is obviously going to teach us a lot about the ups and downs and what it will take to be the No 1 side in the World Cup next year."