Johannesburg: South African captain Graeme Smith dismissed renewed barbs of 'chokers' after his team crashed out of the Twenty20 Worlds, saying it was the tournament format that did them in.
The hosts left their entire nation stunned after crashing to a 37-run defeat at India's hands here on Thursday night which knocked them out from the semi-final race on net run-rates.
It was another bitter end for South Africa, one of the best teams in the sport that has failed to go past the semi-final stage of a major tournament since being readmitted to the international fold in 1991.
Smith, however, brushed aside suggestions from the local media that his team had lived up to its reputation as choking in big games.
"When you lose like that it's always difficult to make excuses," said Smith.
"Though we do find ways to get out of these tournaments there's a lot of disappointment knowing you have lost one game in the tournament and you are out.
"It does seem weird but we were not as clinical with the ball and never really got a hold of the game.
"As a team we have got to take these losses and try to come back better people. Yah, it was disappointing."
An inspired India, restricted to 153-5 in a game they had to win to stay afloat, hit back to stop South Africa to 116-9 in a rousing finish at the Kingsmead.
India, South Africa and New Zealand finished group E of the Super Eights on four points each, but India took the Kiwis along into the semi-finals due to superior net run-rates.
In Saturday's semi-finals, India clash with Australia at Kingsmead while New Zealand meet group F leaders Pakistan at Newlands in Cape Town.
South Africa not only lost a match they appeared to be winning but failed to make 126 that would have helped them pip New Zealand on run-rate.
The hosts slumped to 31-5, recovered through a 69-run stand for the sixth wicket between Mark Boucher and Albie Morkel but failed to get past the tight Indian bowling backed by good fielding.
South Africa needed 17 off the final over to reach the magic figure of 126, but off-spinner Harbhajan Singh tied the batsmen down to concede just seven runs.
Left-arm seamer Rudra Pratap Singh led India's charge with 4-13 from his four overs while Shanthakumaran Sreesanth and Harbhajan claimed two wickets each.
India, who elected to bat after winning the toss, were struggling on 61-4 before Rohit Sharma hit 50 and skipper Mahendra Dhoni 45 to turn the innings around with a stand of 85.
"We knew batting second under lights with that bit of green tinge in the wicket was going to be difficult," said Smith.
"It was disappointing to go five down as quickly as we did. Maybe a bit of experience was missing at times."
Smith paid tributes to Dhoni's men, saying India had the firepower to upset Australia in the semi-finals.
"They bowled and fielded superbly, kept us under pressure all the way and finished the last six overs well with the bat," the South African captain said.
"Even at three down they still managed to be confident, play some shots and get themselves to a total.
"In this format of the game things can change so quickly and if they carry on playing the way they are they have a good chance."
South Africa leave for a tour of Pakistan on Tuesday to play three Tests and five one-day internationals.