Johannesburg - Proteas captain AB de Villiers says he has no regrets despite falling agonisingly short of a place in the Cricket World Cup final.
De Villiers, along with coach Russell Domingo, arrived at OR Tambo International where they were greeted by hundreds of cheering fans on Friday morning.
"We were very confident going into the semis. Obviously things didn't work out the way we planned," De Villiers said, following his side's four-wicket defeat to hosts New Zealand in Auckland in their semifinal match on Tuesday.
"We have no regrets, we left everything out there on the field. We gave it our absolute best. The main prize in my heart is coming back and seeing the difference we made for the youth of South Africa.
"Ultimately that's what it's about, to perform in a way that inspires the future."
Domingo echoed the sentiments of his captain, and conceded the Kiwis deserved the win.
"People at home probably wont realise the pressure, anxiety and tension playing in front of 45000 people," said Domingo.
"I sat watching the highlights about seven times thinking what we could've done differently.
"New Zealand played the better cricket, they won the game, we didn't lose that game. We offer no excuses. We know we missed one or two opportunities."
Prior to the 2015 edition of the World Cup, South Africa had never won a knockout match in the tournament. In the quarterfinal against Sri Lanka, however, the Proteas crushed their opponents by nine wickets.
"I thought we played one of our best games ever in the quarterfinal," said Domingo.
"We come away from the tournament with sincere pride. We went to the World Cup very confident and I always felt we would play our best cricket in the knockout stages, which we showed against Sri Lanka."
Entrusted with the final over of the semifinal match, where New Zealand needed 12 runs to win, Dale Steyn could not contain South African-born Grant Elliott who hit the winning runs for his side off the penultimate delivery of the over.
De Villiers, said he had faith in his number one bowler to get the job done.
"I didn't speak to Dale after every ball. We felt Elliott was using the pace. Yorkers were out because he was guiding it down to fine leg for four.
"I backed Dale to show his skills, but unfortunately it didn't happen."
Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula, who arrived 30 minutes late for the scheduled start of the arrival press conference, said he was pleased by the performance of the Proteas.
"I wouldn't have woken up this early if I were coming to welcome a bunch of losers or chokers -- you have made this nation proud," Mbalula said.
In form seamer Kyle Abbott, who replaced an injured Vernon Philander in the quarterfinal against Sri Lanka, was left out of the semifinal XI as Philander had recovered from his hamstring problem.
Opening the bowling, Philander conceded 52 runs off eight overs without taking a wicket planting doubts that he was not fully fit. Domingo dismissed those claims, and said Philander had no physical ailments ahead of the crunch contest.
"Vern was fit to play," the coach said.
"Vern has been a champion bowler in all formats. When there's something in the wicket, Vern is one of the best at exploiting those kind of conditions."
The only player in the 15-man squad who did not play a game at the World Cup was spinner Aaron Phangiso. Management drew criticism when first-choice tweaker Imran Tahir was selected to play in South Africa's final group game against minnows United Arab Emirates, but Domingo defended his team selection.
"Imran Tahir has been such a good player for us in this format. With the game against UAE we had just lost against Pakistan, and we simply had to play our strongest team to ensure we finished second in our group."