Wales coach Warren Gatland admitted his side paid the price for conceding too many penalties as they suffered an agonising 19-16 defeat to South Africa in their World Cup semi-final.
The Springboks will face England in next Saturday’s final following fly-half Handre Pollard’s match-winning penalty four minutes from time.
Pollard kicked a total of 14 points and Gatland told ITV: “I’m proud of our guys. Congratulations to South Africa, I thought they played very well up front.
“We probably gave away too many penalties in our own half and that cost us dearly but I’m proud of the fact that we never gave up and got ourselves back into that game and we were in the arm wrestle.
“Two or three scrum penalties, a couple of line-out penalties are disappointing and that’s the difference between the two teams.
“We punch massively above our weight when you consider the playing size of numbers in Wales so I’m really proud of these guys.
“They gave 100 per cent. It was a tough, physical South Africa team that we played against. Our guys didn’t take a backward step and I can only be proud of them for that.
“At 16-all it was pretty close and you’re sort of dreaming about the three points being the other way but like I said, congratulations to South Africa and I think it will be a great final between England and South Africa.”
Former South Africa winger Bryan Habana paid tribute to Pollard for his composure in kicking the winning penalty.
“I think in pressure moments the big players step up and Handre takes it back a further 15 metres and puts himself under even more pressure but that composure, you know why he’s rated one of the best fly-halves in the world,” Habana said.
“It’s improved immensely over the last two years and I think South Africa are pretty lucky to have someone as accurate as that kicking for them.”
A downcast Wales captain Alun Wyn Jones told ITV: “We stayed in the arm wrestle. I’m proud of us when we went 16-all but we probably piggy-backed the penalties down the park and South Africa took advantage so congratulations to them.
“Today we fell short but hopefully (will) get another opportunity. It wasn’t our day but I’m still proud to pull this jersey on and represent all the people in red in the stadium.”
Gareth Thomas, whose 100th and last Test match for Wales came in the 2007 World Cup, felt Gatland’s side had given everything they could.
“I think they’ve put everything on the line,” Thomas said. “It was a tough battle, South Africa won deservedly – you could argue Wales could have won as well. They couldn’t have done any more.”