With tough challenges coming up in the November internationals, former South Africa stalwart Fourie du Preez hopes to see the Springboks back on top at some point in the next two years after falling short again in the Rugby Championship.
Allister Coetzee's team finished third in the tournament behind Australia and winners New Zealand, having suffered a chastening 57-0 loss to the All Blacks at North Harbour Stadium in September.
They now have demanding northern hemisphere tour matches coming up against Ireland, France, Italy and Wales.
And Du Preez, who retired after the World Cup in 2015, knows his successors in the national team must continue to improve if they are to assert themselves against the sport's best sides once again.
"They started off very well," he told Omnisport when asked about South Africa's 2017 Rugby Championship efforts.
"[The] game against New Zealand [in Albany] was very bad. It's been up and down. Hopefully they can take some positives out of earlier games, face some realities, some harsh realities.
"There was definitely some pride restored but there's a lot more work [to do]. It's a process. Hopefully they can go through the process and in a year or two's time we can get back on top."
The retirement of scrum-half Du Preez has left South Africa with a void they are yet to fill on a long-term basis, with the 35-year-old optimistic that one of the country's emerging prospects can prove to be a lasting successor.
"Last year Faf de Klerk played and this year Ross [Cronje] has been really solid," he said of the position.
"We missed him quite a bit in the New Zealand defeat. There's a few youngsters coming up, so hopefully one of them can go the distance."