Right attitude and hunger made them the winners, says Australia's skipper Clarke.

South Africa were determined to send off their skipper Graeme Smith with a smile while Australia were desperate to end their summer on a high. Two top teams were battling for their causes and not until the last hour of the last session, were there any hints of smiles in the Australia camp.

The man skipper Michael Clarke turned to at the last moment was Ryan Harris whose knee will be under close examination by his surgeon once he returns home. Harris came in to bowl from the Kelvin Grove End and handed Australia the victory straight away with a heroic performance in the closing session picking up two wickets - Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel - in three balls. It was Australia's fifth series victory in South Africa having never once lost there. The Aussies might have been triumphant in their recent home series', but their previous victory overseas was way back in 2012 in the West Indies.

"It is our first bit of success away from home for a couple of years but it shows that we are learning and growing as a team," Clarke said after their win. "I can't thank my teammates enough for their heart, attitude and hunger."

"Ryan Harris was battling to walk at the start of the day, let alone run in and do the job he did for us. Credit must go to him and all our bowlers, they did a great job."

South Africa, though determined, couldn't save the match. The batsmen batted as long as they could, leaving behind even the slightest of wide deliveries. Nightwatchman Kyle Abbott also did his best lasting nearly two hours to get to his 7 in 89 balls. It was never about the runs they'd score, it was about keeping wickets intact. AB de Villiers stood unshakable for 326 minutes and 228 balls on route to his 43.

"South Africa deserve a lot of credit for the way they performed, as a batting unit we can learn a lot from that performance, how they found a way to hang in there and put value on their wicket," Clarke said.

Vernon Philander and Dale Steyn batted for 75 minutes going into the final session of the match. It looked like South Africa would pull it off again - repeating what they did in Adelaide in 2012, when De Villiers and Faf Du Plessis batted heroically to give South Africa a dramatic draw.

Philander was given out of what later looked like an edge off his glove when not in contact with the bat, before on review the decision was reversed and leaving the fielding team anxious. There was a heated discussion between Steyn and James Pattinson, when Clarke stepped in only to heaten the atmosphere up further.

"You definitely had two extremely passionate teams that wanted to win this Test," Clarke revealed. "There were obviously a lot of words throughout the game. Let's call it banter.

"Do you know what? Honestly, if anybody was out of line it was me and I apologise to the opposition player I was out of line to."

The tension on the field is all done and dusted for good. The match will be most remembered for the close contests between players who spoke best with the bat and the ball, and also for the fact that it was SA skipper Smith's final international match. This season, Australia have won their last seven matches including the Ashes 5-0 victory in home conditions and lost just one.

"I don't think it's fair to compare it to the Ashes series that we just played," Clarke replied when asked if the series victory against South Africa gave the same vibes that the Ashes did. "But I think an honest assumption would be that it's as good. Any time that you beat the number, one team in the world that's extremely special. For us to get over the line is very special for this Australian team. It certainly shows and represents that we're heading in the right direction as a team."