Johannesburg-born Grant Elliott dedicated New Zealand’s thrilling four-wicket win to long-suffering Kiwi fans after his undefeated 84 steered the Black Caps into a first World Cup final after six previous semi-final losses.
Elliott, who turned 36 at the weekend, hit a six off the penultimate ball to take New Zealand into Sunday’s final in Melbourne where they will face either Australia or defending champions India.
“It is great. I don’t think this win is for myself, or the team, it is for everyone here. The support has been amazing,” said Elliott, who smashed Dale Steyn into the stands for the match-clinching six.
“We just wanted to take it as deep as we could. Corey Anderson (58) batted well and we timed the innings to perfection.
“When you have 40,000 fans screaming at you every ball, it has been an absolute pleasure playing at Eden Park and playing in front of the home crowd.
“We have had a good run, this is the first final we have been in and we will approach it as any other match.”
Skipper Brendon McCullum made a 26-ball 59 to also help the Black Caps to their rain-adjusted target of 298 after South Africa had made 281 for five batting first in a match reduced to 43 overs per side.
For South Africa, Faf du Plessis made 82, captain AB de Villiers was not out 65, while David Miller smashed an 18-ball 49.
But the rain came at the worst possible time as they were well-set at 216 for three in the 38th over when play was halted for two hours.
“These boys, I am so proud of them. A lesser team would have laid down today. To see Grant come in and be as calm as he was... we’ve given ourselves a chance of the big prize,” said McCullum.
“Credit to South Africa, they gave as good as they got. I feel for them at the moment. But our boys were outstanding. And it was a great semi-final.”
De Villiers was distraught as South Africa, who’ve yet to reach a World Cup final, once again came up short.
“It’s really painful but we have no regrets. We left it all out on the field. We had opportunities and it will take us a long time to get over this," he said.