Johannesburg - Proteas captain Graeme Smith says he is honoured and humbled to receive the prestigious ICC Test Championship mace and prize money on behalf of all South Africans.
"We all appreciate the enormous privilege of representing our country and taking on the responsibility that goes with it," Smith said after he was presented with the award and a cheque worth just over R4m on Thursday in a ceremony at the Wanderers.
The mace is presented to the team that tops the ICC Test Championship on the April 1 cut-off date. And for the first time since the current ranking system was introduced in 2003, South Africa finished as the No 1-ranked Test side.
VIDEO: ICC Test Championship mace and cheque
"South Africa has all the reasons to be proud of its feat, as it is only the fourth team after Australia, India, and England to hold the mace," Smith said.
South Africa claimed the mace from the then No 1 side England in the last English summer and successfully retained it by winning all five Tests at home against New Zealand (2-0) and Pakistan (3-0).
While congratulating the team, Cricket SA (CSA) president Chris Nenzani said the Proteas and coach Gary Kirsten had set a standard of excellence and integrity that represented all that was best in the world of sport.
He added that he hoped they would maintain their position on top for a considerable period of time.
"As we all know from past experience it is one thing to gain the No 1 ranking but it becomes even harder to retain it and the Proteas are well into their first year at the top.
"They have also opened up a considerable gap between themselves and their challengers and at various stages they have had the No 1 batsman (Hashim Amla), the No 1 bowler (Dale Steyn), and the No 1 all-rounder (Jacques Kallis) in this format of the game."
Gurdeep Singh, president and CEO of championship sponsors, Reliance Communications, also congratulated the team on its achievements.
"We would like to congratulate Graeme Smith and his boys for emerging as the world's best Test-playing team on the Reliance ICC Test Championship Table," Singh said.
"Each player in the South Africa cricket team has demonstrated a hunger to succeed in the toughest format of the game, and the team's consistency over the last few years has seen South Africa reach this top position, winning them the Reliance ICC Test Championship mace."
ICC Test Championship table at April 1 cut-off:
1. South Africa 128 points
2. England 114
3. India 112
4. Australia 110
5. Pakistan 104
6. Sri Lanka 92
7. West Indies 92
8. New Zealand 83
9. Bangladesh 1