Johannesburg: South Africa coach Russell Domingo Friday defended playing bowler Vernon Philander in the four-wicket World Cup semi-final loss to co-hosts New Zealand.
And the handler also justified his decision not to use Aaron Phangiso -- the sole black African in the 15-man squad -- during the quadrennial tournament.
Domingo was speaking in Johannesburg after arriving with some of the squad. Limited airline seats meant the cricketers, coaches and officials could not travel together.
He dismissed media claims that fast bowler Philander, picked ahead of in-form seamer Kyle Abbott, was not fit to face New Zealand in Auckland last Tuesday.
Philander, who missed the nine-wicket quarter-final demolition of Sri Lanka through injury, conceded 52 runs off eight overs at Eden Park and failed to capture a wicket.
"Vernon was fit to play," insisted Domingo at OR Tambo airport east of Johannesburg, where hundreds greeted the coach and players.
"Vernon has been a champion bowler in all formats. When there is something in the wicket, Vernon is one of the best at exploiting those kind of conditions."
Domingo also backed his decision to sideline spinner Phangiso throughout the six-match group phase.
"Imran Tahir has been such a good player for us in this format," the coach told reporters.
"We had just lost to Pakistan and simply had to play our strongest team against the United Arab Emirates to ensure we finished second in our group."
Many black African supporters of the `Proteas` disagreed and vented their anger on social media. Some referred to the "lily white" South African team.
The team that faced New Zealand comprised seven white cricketers, two of Asian descent and two of mixed race.
An unsourced report this week said the national cricket governing body will demand that the six top-flight franchises pick at least three black Africans and a maximum of six whites for games next season.
This season, domestic teams had to include at least two black Africans and at least three cricketers of Asian origin or mixed race.
Captain AB de Villiers said he had no regrets after the loss, which deprived South Africa of a first World Cup final appearance.
"We left everything out there on the field. We gave it our absolute best," said the batsman.
"The main prize in my heart is coming back and seeing the difference we made for the youth of South Africa.
"Ultimately that is what it is all about -- to perform in a way that inspires the future."
He also backed veteran fast bowler Dale Steyn, who conceded a six off the penultimate ball to Johannesburg-born Grant Elliott that decided the cliff-hanger.
"I did not speak to Dale after every ball. Yorkers were out because Grant was guiding them down to fine leg for four.
"I backed Dale to show his skills but, unfortunately, it did not happen."
Domingo said Proteas` supporters may not have realised the pressure the team faced in the semi-final.
"There was pressure, anxiety and tension playing in front of 45,000 people.
"I sat watching the highlights of the game about seven times, thinking what we could have done differently.
"New Zealand played the better cricket. They won the match -- we did not lose it.
"We offer no excuses. We know we missed one or two opportunities."
Co-hosts Australia and New Zealand meet Sunday in the final in Melbourne.