Australia captain George Bailey heaped praise on South Africa's bowling attack after his side slumped to a six-wicket defeat in the tri-series final at Harare.
Pace-bowling spearhead Dale Steyn excelled with figures of 4-34 to scoop the man-of-the-match award as Australia were restricted to 217-9.
It was a total that posed few problems for South Africa, with Faf du Plessis striking 96 to continue a masterful run of form, while opener Hashim Amla and skipper AB de Villiers hit half-centuries of their own.
"We were 70 or 80 short but full credit to the way South Africa bowled," said Bailey at the post-match presentation. "They got the ball going reverse [swing] and that was really challenging for our guys to face.
"They bowled really tight. I thought that was a really good bowling performance and they backed it up with the bat.
"It's disappointing to lose but I'm happy to admit we were outplayed."
As had been the case throughout the tournament, the teams were confronted with a sluggish surface that made fluent scoring difficult.
Bailey cited a circumspect fifty from usually explosive opener Aaron Finch as evidence of this but again offered credit to South Africa for making the most of conditions.
"I think any time a guy as damaging as Finchy is struggling to time the ball that gives you an indication of how tough it is, but I think you've got to give a little bit of credit to South African for how tight they bowled.
"Their spinners were really accurate, their quicks started really well so it just made it tough for us.
"All the top four or five got starts, we just needed that partnership."
Australia slumped to 144-8 and only moved towards respectability through an excellent ninth-wicket stand of 71 from James Faulkner and Mitchell Starc.
"It is a real strength of our batting line-up that we do bat right the way down," Bailey added. "That will come in handy in many games."