Rory Best believes the future is bright for Ireland despite missing out on a maiden series win in South Africa.
Saturday's decider in Port Elizabeth saw South Africa come from behind to claim a 19-13 victory having trailed 10-3 in the first half.
Ireland twice had possession deep in the South Africa half late on but a match and series-winning try did not materialise, leaving captain Best to wonder what might have been.
The tourists won the opening encounter 26-20 despite having CJ Stander sent off before losing 32-26 in Johannesburg prior to this weekend's defeat.
And the close nature of the series has Best feeling upbeat about the state of the national team.
Speaking after the match, Best said: "It's been a great series, really tough series, exactly what we though it would be. They're a top side, when you look at the six points in every game speaks volumes for how tight the series has been.
"We were inches [away] there at the end. The Springboks have been just a little bit more clinical.
"A lot of people wrote us off before we arrived, there are a lot of guys with not a lot of experience but they're very exciting [and] talented.
"I think hopefully the future for Irish rugby is very bright, we still feel we're good enough to win a series and eventually we'll look at why we didn't."