George North admitted Wales must keep the ball better if they are going to reach the next level after falling to a 30-14 loss and a series defeat against South Africa.
Wales went into the break 17-8 behind after Tommy Reffell’s unconverted try was cancelled out by Handrè Pollard’s opener and a score from Bongi Mbonambi.
Two Dan Biggar penalties reduced the deficit to three points, but Siya Kolisi wrapped up the win with a try after the break.
And North, who was celebrating his 105th cap and becoming Wales’ most capped back, felt the ability to keep hold of the ball at the right time was the difference in a closely fought contest.
He said: “That is the next level that we need to get to. We need that ball retention in the right areas so we can put the pressure on and then convert that into points.
“It was a tough old shift out there today.
“To go to 1-1 and to go to Cape Town with one game to play is always going to be exciting.
“I guess for us, the difference is about ball retention. We saw that for a massive part of the game, we did not have enough of the ball.
“And then when we had opportunities, we either knocked it on, or there was a turnover.”
The hosts went 10-0 ahead when Pollard powered his way over the whitewash after six ferocious phases in Wales territory.
Wayne Pivac’s side struck back immediately through Reffell, who had plenty of space to go over in the corner after receiving the ball from Josh Adams.
Mbonambi powered over from the back of a driving maul to send the hosts into the break 17-8 ahead.
After 12 minutes of the second half, Kolisi spotted a small gap in the Wales defence and took advantage to power over from five meters out, wrapping up the win in the process.
And North highlighted what a physical encounter it was.
He added: “You always know when you play South Africa that it is going to be a physical battle.
“The first and the second Tests were definitely physical, and then with the third one here, I think you definitely saw the injuries.
“As you said, we emptied the bench out early, but it was a great shift from the lads to be able to get the 80 minutes there.
At 30 years old, North was winning his 105th cap, having become the joint-third youngest player to represent Wales back in November 2010 against South Africa.
He added: “It is a bit of a dream, really.
“About a year ago, I did not think that I would play in a Wales game again.
“But to fight back from my knee and then get back in a Wales jersey is a huge thing for me.
“You do not think about it at the time, but it is a massive honour to be in that position now.”