While the touring side played with unbridled vigour, Vermeulen believed South Africa made too many errors that gave Wales turnover ball.
“They were physically up there and definitely the top team on the night,” Vermeulen said.
“It’s good for team moral and spirit [to have had a close battle]. The good fight from every guy in our squad … you’ve got to commend the guys that came off the bench and the spark the guys brought.”
The Springboks were chasing the game for the majority of the match, with a shock defeat on the cards for the hosts.
Prop Jannie du Plessis said the team dug deep to snatch victory, which the Springbok stalwart said was a testament to the side’s temperament.
“For 80 minutes we believed we can and we will win. If you play for the Springboks, it is probably the biggest thing you can ever achieve,” Du Plessis said.
“You want to go out and win every test by 60 points and you want to smash guys, but unfortunately [it] doesn’t always work out like that.
“You have to commend the fire that stayed in their [the Springboks’] eyes.”
Du Plessis spent the final anxious 20 minutes of the match watching his teammates salvage victory in the dying minutes.
A penalty try awarded to South Africa, after a shoulder charge by Wales fullback Alex Williams on Cornel Hendricks as he was en route to the tryline, ultimately led to the 31-30 victory.
The Springbok prop believed the side could still have pulled through even if the penalty try was not awarded.
“I am a hell of an emotional guy and I was praying out loud next to the field and I get a stomach ache when watching a match from that side,” Du Plessis said.
“Whether it was a penalty try or not, I knew we would get a penalty or a lineout, so we would have had another chance.”
Du Plessis was also impressed with the resolve shown by his teammates to chase victory until the last seconds of the encounter.
“Of course in sport there is an unknown factor called character. You can’t coach that, you can’t simulate that in training, and you can’t be a psychologist to put guys under pressure the way they were [under] today,” he said.
“It is a massive, massive victory for our own belief and we know we can win even though the chips are down.”