Eddie Jones said England were simply not good enough and had been beaten by the better side after South Africa won the Rugby World Cup with a dominant 32-12 victory.
Handre Pollard booted 22 points, while tries from Makazole Mapimpi and Cheslin Kolbe gave the Springboks breathing space as they lifted the Webb Ellis Cup for a record-equalling third time.
England were overpowered by Rassie Erasmus' ferocious side in Yokohama on Saturday after suffering the early blow of losing prop Kyle Sinckler due to concussion.
Four penalties from Owen Farrell kept England in touch, but they were second best from the start and head coach Jones admitted they had fallen short.
"We just struggled to get in the game. The effort of the players was outstanding but we struggled to get on the front foot." said the Australian.
"I can't fault the preparation of the players, they've worked hard the entire World Cup and I think they've played with a lot of pride and passion.
"We just weren't good enough today and congratulations to South Africa on an outstanding performance."
Captain Farrell feels England made great strides in Japan despite the agony of missing out on being crowned world champions for a second time.
"We didn't start it [the game] well. We probably had a disappointing first half, but I'm proud of this group, I'm proud of what we've done, how far we've come over the course of this tournament." the skipper said.
"It showed with the fight that we had in the second half, but credit to South Africa, they were very good today."