Siya Kolisi said he was “really proud” of his team after they came from behind to beat England by a single point in an “ugly” semi-final at the Stade de France on Saturday.
The defending champions were facing the exit as they trailed 15-6 after 69 minutes.
But RG Snyman crashed over for a short-range try and Handre Pollard converted before adding a 77th-minute penalty to give his side their second successive one-point win – last week they beat France 29-28 in the quarter-finals.
“It’s honestly all the hard work we have put in which came off. It was really ugly but that is what champions are made of,” said Kolisi, who will now have the chance to lead his team to back-to-back World Cup titles.
“It was ugly today like it was last week but we found a way to fight back and get back into the game
“Well done to the boys. I am really proud of the fight that was showed.”
Kolisi also paid tribute to England, who almost defied the critics and rugby form in a repeat of the 2019 final.
Owen Farrell kicked four first-half penalties before landing a monster drop goal in the second half to give the English a nine-point lead and put them within touching distance of a fifth final.
“Credit to England, they have worked hard,” said Kolisi.
“They were written off before the World Cup. England’s coach Steve Borthwick and Owen and the team pulled themselves together and showed who they are.
“They are not a team you take lightly, all credit to them for being in the semi-final.”
Pollard, who replaced Manie Libbok after 30 minutes, described the win as “unbelievable” while admitting frustration at the Bok performance.
“We weren’t at our best tonight, especially in that first half,” he said.
“We knew we had so much more to give but fair play to England, I think they put us under pressure in exactly the right areas. But jeez the fight we showed, never giving up, it is what we stand for as a team and as a nation.”
The Leicester flyhalf, who was not in the original squad for the World Cup, was delighted with his winning kick.
“It was a big moment but it is what you want as a player on this stage, to have moments like that as a flyhalf is what you live for,” he said. “It was fun.”
© Agence France-Presse
Photo: Thomas SAMSON / AFP