Ireland v South Africa: Future bright despite series loss - Rory Best
Ireland captain Rory Best says South Africa won the series between the sides 2-1 because they were "a little bit more clinical" in the final two Tests.
The Springboks won the decisive match 19-13 in Port Elizabeth on Saturday.
"Our boys have fought valiantly and put everything into it. We came here to win but we have fallen short," said Best.
"Hopefully the future for Irish rugby is bright with the talent we have here, including some great young players, as well as the talent we have at home."
He added: "A lot of people wrote us off before we came here and the age profile of the squad is such that we have some guys with not a lot of experience, but they are very exciting and talented and now have a taste for big games like this."
"It's been a great series and a really tough one in which we knew we had to defend really well to win," said Best.
"The fact there has only been six points between the sides in every game speaks volumes about how tight the games have been.
"It came down to small margins but that's Test rugby and our set-piece was not what we would have liked today.
"We knew they would come after us in the scrum after last week and unfortunately they didn't disappoint us."
Ireland coach Joe Schmidt added: "Three six-point results (wining margins); two of them unfortunately didn't go our way.
"If you'd offered me one win and a couple of other close results like that before the tour, I probably would have taken it because there's a little bit of history there but at the same time when you get as close as we did, it's disappointing."
South Africa maintained their record of not having lost a home Test series for 19 years and gave Allister Coetzee a successful start to his reign, having taken over as coach in April.
"We ground it out a bit but we're happy to get the win - it was a tough series," said Springbok skipper Adriaan Strauss.
"We had to defend well, especially in the closing stages, and the forwards really put their hands up tonight.
"Our decision-making is something we have to build upon and work on."