Flashes of brilliance could not save South Africa from elimination at the 2018 Hockey World Cup in India where they finished at the bottom of their pool after suffering three defeats.
The Proteas suffered two heavy defeats to India and Belgium and played to draw with Canada to seal their fate at the global showpiece.
Their hopes of reaching the crossover round ultimately hinged on the result against the world number-three Belgium in their final clash.
South Africa made a dream start to the match when Nic Spooner launched the ball into the back of the back just 35 seconds into the encounter for an early advantage.
Spooner gathered from a brilliant pass from Rhett Halkett at the edge of the pitch to fire it into the corner of the goal.
The Proteas could not hold on to the advantage with the Belgians recovering well from the early blow to claim a 5-1 victory.
South Africa produced a few scoring opportunities in the opening 30 minutes but could not quite get the rub of the green.
Their best opportunity to add to the scoreboard was when promising youngster Dayaan Cassiem received the ball in the centre of the circle but his shot went wide of goal.
They made amends in their second match against Canada where they played to a 1-1 draw but will effectively blew their chances of reaching the next round thanks to missed chances in this match.
They beat the Canadians in April at the Commonwealth Games and came painstakingly close repeating that result when they took the lead in the 43rd minute courtesy of Nqobile Ntuli.
They were left dejected when Canada equalised just two minutes later to force the stalemate.
Hosts India took the top spot in the pool to advance to the quarter-finals while Canada and Belgium will play in the crossover matches due to a better goal difference than South Africa.
South Africa will have to make serious improvements before they return to India in July 2019 for the Hockey Series Finals which is an Olympic Qualifying tournament.
FIH Hockey World Cup 2018 – Group C – 8 December Results
South Africa 1-5 Belgium
India 5-1 Canada
Group C Final Standings (Goal Difference in Brackets)
1. India 7 pts (+9) – Progress to Quarterfinals
2. Belgium 7 pts (+5) – Progress to Crossovers
3. Canada 1 pt. (-5) – Progress to Crossovers
4. South Africa 1 pt. (-9) – eliminated