Nelspruit - South Africa booked a four-nation tournament final showdown with Samoa after defeating a brave Scotland 30-17 on Saturday in a fiery Nelspruit Test.
The injury-weakened Scots led for much of the game at Mbombela Stadium and were in contention until the final minute when centre Jan Serfontein touched down.
The Scots face Italy in Pretoria next Saturday for third place before the Springboks tackle physically formidable Samoa in the climax of the three-week event.
VIDEO: Hamilton punches Etzebeth
Springbok captain, Jean de Villiers was all too aware of his side's performance during his post match interview.
"I am happy with the result but not the performance," said De Villiers.
"But let us give credit to Scotland for slowing the ball at the breakdown.
"We showed good character to eventually get our act together and win easily in the end, but are going to have to up the ante to defeat the Samoans next weekend," De Villiers concluded.
Scotland entered the match needing a 23-point victory plus a four-try
bonus point and no points for South Africa if they were to snatch an
unlikely place in the decider.
It was a huge task for a nation
that lost five previous Tests in the republic, with the closest they
came to downing the Springboks being a four-point defeat 10 years ago.Scotland scrum-half Greig Laidlaw, elevated to captain after flanker Kelly Brown sustained a tour-ending injury against Samoa last weekend, said he was "very proud" of the showing.
"The positives include the new caps sticking their hands up with good displays, and our pre-match plan to slow South African ball down at the collisions worked well."
Springbok coach, Heyneke Meyer praised the Scots for their showing and highlighted the positives he took out of the encounter.
"That's what you call Test match rugby," Meyer said.
"They've (Scotland) been written off all week and we knew they're going to come back.
"I thought the guys learnt a lot from this.
"I thought we needed a game like this before we go on to the (Rugby) Championship."
Scotland coach, Scott Johnson said that he was satisfied with his team's commitment to the cause.
"These guys gave everything. To say I'm proud is an understatement," Johnson said, adding he was "bitterly disappointed."
Scotland's Jim Hamilton was sin-binned for a shove on Eben Etzebeth — a contentious decision that the Scots viewed as the turning point.
"That's nothing but embarrassing," Johnson said of Hamilton's yellow card. "That's handbag stuff. It ruined a great game of footy. It ruined a competitive game of footy. I don't normally have a crack at officials ... but tonight it's a crack."