South Africa coach Rob Walter on Thursday said he was "proud" of Temba Bavuma despite the injured captain being unable to break the country's World Cup jinx.
The Proteas went down to Australia by three wickets in Thursday's semi-final after a gallant effort to defend a modest 212 at Kolkata's Eden Gardens.
It was a fifth semi-final loss for South Africa to add to similar disappointments in 1992, 1999, 2007 and 2015.
Five-time champions Australia marched into their eighth final where they will tackle undefeated hosts India on Sunday.
Bavuma played the match despite not being 100% fit due to a hamstring injury and was out for a fourth-ball duck.
Bavuma, an opening batsman who missed two games in the World Cup through illness, managed just 145 runs in eight matches with a highest score of 35.
"I just told him how proud I am of him," Walter said of Bavuma.
"You know he marshalled the troops this evening unbelievably well.
"He was the lead man that got us into this tournament in the first place, I think people forget that so I just wanted to make sure that he was aware of how important he is in this team and how proud I am of his efforts and the way he led throughout the tournament."
Bavuma has played 38 ODIs for South Africa, scoring 1,512 runs at an average of over 45.
Walter defended the decision to play Bavuma despite not being fully recovered from the injury he picked against Afghanistan last Friday.
"If you looked at him in the field, if you didn't know that he wasn't 100%, you wouldn't have guessed," said Walter.
"So, in terms of being 100%, I think he was pretty close, to be fair. He went through the entire week, he got better every day. And the only potential red flag might have been if something happened in the field."
- 'Father figure' -
South Africa fell to 24-4 in 11.5 overs after they elected to bat first but David Miller's valiant 101 handed Australia a 213-run target on a tough pitch.
"The first 12 overs of batting this afternoon was a serious challenge. And ultimately, I think that's what separated the game really," said Walter.
Quinton de Kock, with 594 runs including four centuries, remained the team's top batsman in the tournament and second only to India's Virat Kohli (711).
However, on Thursday, the 30-year-old De Kock was out for just three on his last ODI for South Africa.
"Thank goodness I don't have to be Quinny's father figure anymore. That's a bonus," Walter joked.
Fast bowler Gerald Coetzee was a breakout star for South Africa with 20 wickets in the competition including two on Thursday.
"Personally, I'm excited," said Walter as he surveyed his team's younger players such as Coetzee and Marco Jansen.
"I think there's a huge scope for us to grow as a team. I think there's a huge scope for us to play even better than we have. And the majority of the people that are going to be on their journey are still in that changing room."