PERTH (Reuters) - South Africa captain Graeme Smith believes it will take some time for people to fully appreciate his team's achievement in winning an away series in England followed by a second consecutive triumph in Australia.
The Proteas sealed their second straight series win in Australia on Monday with an emphatic 309-run victory over the hosts in the third test after having to bat for their lives to save a draw in the second match in Adelaide.
The normally eloquent Smith said he was struggling for words to describe how he felt about his side's achievement, before having several good stabs.
"Right now I'm extremely humbled," he told reporters. "I hope the people of Australia can respect what we've done and how we've done it.
"For us it certainly means the world. There's many people in our setup who have taking a beating on tours of Australia so we know what it takes to come here and be victorious.
"To have done it twice? When we get on that plane tomorrow I'll have a really warm feeling that I've been part of something very special. It's the proudest moment of my career."
The series win in England propelled South Africa to the top ranking in test cricket and they extended their lead to an imposing six points with the victory in Australia.
They have gone nine matches unbeaten on the road this year and have not lost a series outside South Africa since 2006.
Former Australia captain Ricky Ponting, who retired after the series after playing in and captaining Australian sides who dominated the game, had no doubt of the quality of the South African side.
"They are dominating world cricket right now," he told reporters. "They have really risen to the top and probably been clearly the best team."
Ponting was particularly impressed with the way the South Africans drove home their advantage with the bat after bowling Australia out for 163 on day two of the test - the turning point of the series.
"A lot of other teams we have played against over the years in a position like that have been too scared to do that and push the game forward," he said.
"What they did was a sign they had total belief in what they were doing.
"They put us under more pressure with the bat that afternoon and the ball in the morning than we have been under for a long time. They thoroughly deserved to walk away and be the winners of this series."
Smith said the Australia triumph was all the more impressive because they lost batsman JP Duminy for the series on day one of the first test, paceman Vernon Philander for the whole of the second, while Jacques Kallis was unable to bowl in Perth.
"It hasn't been the perfect series, we've had injuries and not everything has gone according to plan as it did in England," said Smith.
"We had to scrap and adapt and test our depth. And at times we haven't bowled well but we certainly hit our straps in this test match, I thought we were superb, we got everything together."
The South Africans, who celebrated with a song on the WACA pitch in near darkness late on Monday, now return home for a well-earned rest before hosting a two-test series against New Zealand in the New Year.
"This series was going to be challenge for us to give us the chance to create a legacy," Smith said. "It's nice to go home with a six-point gap and play in front of our own fans on our own grounds.
"It's been a long haul away from home and to come through it has been really special. Come January, we're going to be really motivated to take that next step forward against New Zealand."
(Editing by John Mehaffey)