Manchester - The Proteas finished in seventh position out of 10 teams at the 2019 Cricket World Cup, and that is a return that will never be considered good enough. 

Losses to England, Bangladesh, India, New Zealand and Pakistan sealed South Africa's fate, and the Proteas were the second team after Afghanistan to be mathematically eliminated from the competition. 

The results, the injuries the side endured throughout the campaign and the media storm that came after news broke of AB de Villiers' alleged availability all combined to make this a nightmarish few weeks for the national side. 

Skipper Faf du Plessis even acknowledged that it had been the lowest point of his captaincy. 

On Saturday in Manchester, however, the Proteas turned it on to leave with their heads held high as they beat rivals Australia, who had entered the match on top of the log, by 10 runs at Old Trafford. 

It is obviously a result that doesn't matter in terms of South Africa's World Cup, but it was a performance that at least allows the Proteas to leave the competition with their heads held high. 

Beating Australia, regardless of the format or context, will always matter. 

"After a tough tour, I'm just glad that hopefully the team could put a small smile on the South African supporters' faces again," Du Plessis, who scored a superb 100 on the day, told media after the game.

"I know they enjoy beating Australia just as much as we do. There's always rivalry there."

Du Plessis went on to praise the team culture, saying it was something he was proud to be a part of despite the poor results.

"I never really felt that behind closed doors that there were excuses being made or fingers being pointed at players in the team, or coaching staff, and that's a real positive for me to take away from a disappointing tour," he said.

"There's more so what we do than just cricket. As a team, we showed great unity in tough circumstances and that's when you get tested as a team.

"The cracks can appear and you can really start blaming each other and I never felt that this tournament.

"I'm really proud of that, that things are right in the team. Obviously, performances weren't up to scratch where we needed to be in the first seven games, but the last two games have been brilliant."

Du Plessis had said on the eve of the Australia match that he would consider his international future after the tournament. 

He wants to captain the Proteas to the T20 World Cup in Australia next year while he is also still committed to the Test side, but it is in the ODI format where the uncertainty lies. 

"I don't want to just play games for the sake of playing games," he said.

"When I play I want to make sure I'm motivated to keep doing it and right now sitting here I am still, very motivated.

"I decided way before this World Cup that I was going to play the World Cup, win or lose, good or bad, and then after the tournament sit down and relook at how hungry I am."

"The leadership at Cricket South Africa (CSA) would also need to have their say", Du Plessis said.

"So those things will happen over the next three or four weeks," he said.

"But I really enjoyed today so it will be hard to walk away from the feeling of today and playing international cricket, but that will probably be decided in front of a fireplace with a glass of red wine in my hand."

The Proteas are next in action when they leave for India in September for a tour comprising of three T20Is and three Tests.

@LloydBurnard is in England covering the 2019 Cricket World Cup for Sport24 ...