Proteas captain Graeme Smith said he backed the decision of Dale Steyn and Vernon Philander to bat out for the draw, in the final three overs of the first test on day five of their match against India at the Wanderers on Sunday.
With just 16 runs required to win from the final 18 balls to achieve the highest total in test history to win a match, Philander and Steyn decided to instead play for the draw to the boos of the crowd.
“We as a team have to support the decision that Dale and Vern made in the middle,” said Smith after his team scored the third highest fourth innings total of a test match.
“Two overs with one match left to play in the series, we can still win the series in Durban.
Faf du Plessis (134) and AB de Villiers (103) had shared in the highest ever fifth-wicket partnership in the fourth innings of a test match, as they amassed 205 runs while at the crease.
The stand brought South Africa to the verge of an unlikely victory, before De Villiers was out with the side needing 56 to win from just under 13 overs.
The Proteas were still in the hunt while Du Plessis was at the wicket, but when he was run out with 3.1 overs left, the challenge of the home side effectively ended.
“I think we played it beautifully, Faf getting run out at the end there was unfortunate,” said Smith.
“Ultimately, the guys out in the middle made a decision in the best interests of the team.
“Morne [Morkel] is struggling to stand really, and Imran [Tahir] himself would say you'd not be sure what you're going to get from him.”
Even when Du Plessis was run out, Smith believed his side could still win but the Indian bowlers made it impossible he explained.
“Then there were a couple of maidens bowled which made it difficult. Ultimately, we needed to give Vernon the opportunity to win the game. But that never happened.
Smith said the ability of each player to think on their feet out in the middle, was what got South Africa to No 1 in the world in tests.
“Each guy is mature, and won cricket games for South Africa. That's how we've got to No 1 in the world – trusting each other and the decisions we make.
“Even at lunch today I didn't think we'd get as close as we did. We just wanted to build a partnership, we knew to save the game we'd have to have a session without really losing any wickets after lunch.”
Smith also said India would have been the more disappointed team to come away with a draw. India needed to take just eight wickets on the final day, while South Africa still required a mammoth 320 runs to win from the 90 overs.
“They were ahead of the game. I think they would have been very disappointed they didn't win it.
“Credit to our guys who showed the ability and mental strength to get something out of this test match."
Meanwhile, Virat Kohli said Sunday's draw with South Africa in a test India should have won, but ended up nearly losing, won't damage the young touring team's confidence.
If anything, Kohli says India's mood is "brilliant" after dominating the first four days of the series-opener.
Kohli said "everyone's confident" ahead of the second test in Durban starting Thursday and "if you asked me two months back if you could play a match like this first match in South Africa, I'd take it hands down."
Kohli scored 119 and 96 to help make India favourite for victory before South Africa battled for a draw, and finished just short of a shock win.
Kohli described India's team as "a group of smart cricketers who are inexperienced but very desperate and hungry to perform."