Chester-le-Street, June 28: Faf du Plessis acknowledged a dominant nine-wicket victory over Sri Lanka was "bittersweet" for South Africa at the Cricket World Cup.
The Proteas had already been knocked out of the tournament, having won just one of their first seven matches to end semi-final ambitions, but they rediscovered form in spectacular fashion at Chester-le-Street on Friday.
Dwaine Pretorius was influential with the ball, taking 3-25 to help limit Sri Lanka to 203, and then Du Plessis made 96 not out and Hashim Amla an unbeaten 80 in a match-winning 175 partnership.
It was a superb win but one that captain Du Plessis admitted was too little too late.
"It's been a long time coming," he said in the post-match presentation. "It was a good game. We did ourselves justice with the talent we have in that dressing room.
"We were set up today by a really good bowling performance. I thought Dwaine was exceptional - we've been trying to get him into the team so badly but, from a combination point of view, it was really tough.
"Today, he came in at the expense of Lungi and he did a really, really good job."
Du Plessis added: "It feels bittersweet. It doesn't feel like it means that much because you feel it's a little bit too late.
"But the basics of batting were shown today. We've batted really well through the tournament but we've never got guys to bat through and score big runs or big partnerships.
"That was the case today. Hashim gave us a big foundation with myself and you get one big partnership and then everything looks so much easier when you bat, it feels so much easier.
"All of a sudden, almost every over you can put the bowler under pressure. But you have to earn the right to do that and we haven't had that consistently through the tournament."
Sri Lanka captain Dimuth Karunaratne, who was out first ball, had a simple explanation for his team's failings: "All departments went wrong - especially the batting."
But he also paid tribute to opponents South Africa and their approach.
"They bowled really very well," Karunaratne said. "They kept the pressure with all the fielders in the ring and they tried to get the big, big ones.
"They planned really well. We couldn't get the singles and had to look for the big shots."