All Blacks boss Steve Hansen paid a glowing tribute to South Africa after his side edged out the Springboks to make the World Cup final.
Hansen said that the gripping semi-final sent a message to any doubters in Europe of the intensity of the Rugby Championship, and that either team could have triumphed.
"I'd like to congratulate South Africa. It's disappointing that someone has to go home and lose a contest like that. The game could have gone either way. We're humbled that we have the opportunity to go through to the final next week," Hansen said.
"In saying that, I was really rapt with the composure our guys showed. To come in down at half-time in a do-or-die game, come back out and get some ascendancy before those last 15 minutes when we controlled the game well… I'm very proud.
"We'll enjoy the moment because that's what Test rugby is all about, so we'll look forward to watching Argentina and Australia smash each other tomorrow and then we'll look forward to preparing for a Test match that is going to be very, very special. You don't get the opportunity to play in World Cup finals often.
"I want to pay homage to South Africa. We've played them a lot in the last few years. The Rugby Championship has been given a few smacks from up this way and I think you've seen tonight it's actually a really physical competition. If you haven't got physicality you can't play it and if you haven't got skill you can't play it either.
"We've played them a few times and come out on the right side, but there's not been a lot in it. It would be remiss of us not to acknowledge that because they're a very good side."
The 20-18 scoreline was a far cry from New Zealand's thrashing of France in last weekend's quarter-final but Hansen stated that they were equally sweet.
Hansen added: "We had to do the job. Sometimes great performances can look like the one against France and then sometimes like against South Africa, they're not always the same. When we understand that we don't get too carried away with ourselves, but we enjoy them.
"Men and women play sport because they love it and you don't get too many bigger moments like playing in front of 80,000 people against one of the best sides in the world in your sport. Both were special occasions."
Hansen was though concerned by his team's penalty count, conceding 13 to only South Africa's six.
"It's worrying. In the game you're quite emotional and you probably think you haven't done anything wrong, but when we sit down and look at them… it's a big descrepancy in the penalty count," he added.
"They scored a lot of points from kicks at goal and if we can sort that out then it makes it harder for the opposition."
Hansen and his coaching staff will now look to shore up that area after watching Sunday's other semi-final between Argentina and Australia – teams who he equally respects.
"I don't care who we play in the final, we're in it. Whoever we get will be very very tough, regardless of if they're in yellow or blue and white, so that's why I don't care," Hansen added.
"I haven't got time to waste picking which one I want to play – I just want them to bash each other to bits tomorrow.
"We've got to make sure we enjoy tonight, because it's a special moment, and then put a full stop on it to prepare for a massive occasion."