De Villiers, who described the mood in the South Africa dressing room as "three notches lower than a funeral" after their 11-9 World Cup quarter-final defeat to Australia, coached the Boks to 30 wins in 48 Tests. Included among his victories were two over the Lions in the opening internationals on the 2009 tour.
Also joining him in international retirement after the 11-9 defeat by the Wallabies in Wellington are two of the modern day giants of the game, John Smit and Victor Matfield. They both played crucial parts in the Springboks' triumph ove the Lions, while Smit lifted the World Cup in 2007.
"It's the first time I have lost a game on the scoreboard and won it every other way from a stats point of view, so it makes it even harder to accept," said the 111 times capped Smit, who is joining English champions Saracens this season.
"This is a sad way to end it. We did enough to win, but we weren't good enough."
Matfield, who is hanging up his boots after 110 Tests, described the feeling after his side's quarter-final exit as "heartbreaking".