Joel Stransky, whose drop goal won the 1995 Rugby World Cup, said on Wednesday he was "bitterly disappointed and very surprised" that South Africa will not host the 2023 edition.
After France were awarded hosting rights, the businessman-cum-TV analyst told SuperSport: "What is the point in having an independent evaluation process when its winners (South Africa) end up as losers?
"One can but imagine the lobbying that goes on behind the scenes -- an old boys' club is still making decisions at World Rugby."
Stransky slotted the extra-time drop goal that earned South Africa a 15-12 triumph over favourites New Zealand in the 1995 final at Ellis Park stadium in Johannesburg.
France received 18 votes, South Africa 13 and Ireland eight in the first round of voting among rugby unions in London, and in the decisive second phase France claimed 24 to South Africa's 15.
Independent evaluators last month recommended that South Africa host the quadrennial competition, only for the republic to fail again.
South Africa lost out to New Zealand for the 2011 World Cup, England for 2015 and Japan for 2019.
Winger Chester Williams, the only black player in the 1995 team, was quoted on radio saying the decision was "sad".
"It was a much-needed event that would have been another opportunity for South Africans to reunite as a nation," he added.
Another former Springbok winger, Ashwin Willemse, told SuperSport: "We need to discover how you win a bid. Are their soft issues we are missing out on?
"It is concerning that the views of the independent evaluators proved insignificant. Congratulations to France."
Deputy sports minister Gert Oosthuizen said he was "obviously disappointed, but we must go to France and win the World Cup there again."
The Springboks overcame England 15-6 at the Stade de France in Paris to win the 2007 World Cup, their only other success since their glorious home debut in 1995.
Oosthuizen spoke in a Pretoria square after attending a public screening of the announcement with many South Africans later shedding tears and shaking their heads.
"We must rally from this disappointment. I wish France a successful hosting. We worked very hard for so long to try and win the bid, but so did the French."
The build-up to the vote had been downplayed in the media with the struggles of the national football and rugby teams the more pressing talking points.
South Africa's football team lost home and away to Senegal within five days to be eliminated from 2018 World Cup qualifying.
Meanwhile, the Springboks suffered a record 38-3 loss to Ireland in Dublin last Saturday at the start of a European tour, which includes Tests in France, Italy and Wales.