Smith led from the front, scoring 105 in South Africa's first innings
South Africa captain Graeme Smith praised England's resilience during the Test series, which finished 1-1 after the hosts' victory in Johannesburg.
Twice in the series, England produced defiant rearguard actions to grind out draws and deny South Africa victory.
"We could easily be sitting here 3-1 up," admitted Smith.
"Credit must go to England for the resilient performances they've put in at Centurion and Cape Town and for the way they played in Durban."
South Africa's victory in the fourth and final Test, by an innings and 74 runs, was reward for the contribution the hosts have made to an enthralling series.
They dominated the match entirely, bowling England out for 180 in their first innings before posting an imposing 423-7 declared and then dismissing the tourists again for 169.
We've been trying hard the whole of the series and I'm just really happy at the end that it paid off
"I'm proud of the way the guys performed in this Test match," said Smith.
"We were under pressure coming into this game, we've got close in two of the three games before.
"It's been a great series for the game of cricket and for Test cricket."
In the first and third Tests, at Centurion and Cape Town respectively, South Africa needed only one wicket to seal victory.
In the first match, the last-wicket pairing of Paul Collingwood and Graeme Onions survived three overs and a ball to clinch a draw, while in the third it was again left to Onions, along with Graeme Swann, to survive the last 17 balls.
England's victory came in the third Test at Durban by an innings and 98 runs.
While the series has seen a number of tense moments flair up between the sides, most notably over the use of the controversial referral system, Smith believes both sides can now put any animosity behind them.
"I'm sure there will be a cool drink or a beer shared," he added.
Pace bowler Morne Morkel took three wickets in seven balls on Sunday to finish with 4-59 in the second innings, adding to his 3-39 from the first.
He shared 14 wickets with opening bowling partner Dale Steyn, who took 5-51 and 2-64, resulting in the pair sharing the man-of-the-match award.
Steyn was full of praise for his colleague, saying: "Morne has risen to the occasion with Makhaya Ntini not being here we needed somebody to fill the gap and Morne stepped up to the plate fantastically.
"He deserves this award more than anything."
Morkel added: "We've been trying hard the whole of the series and I'm just really happy at the end that it paid off.
"I've been working hard on the basics since I've been in team and really going well at the moment. I'll just go now and focus on India, the next big tour."
Wicketkeeper-batsman Mark Boucher had an impressive series, scoring 341 runs at 56.83 and taking 16 catches.
The 33-year-old passed 5,000 Test runs on his way to an innings of 95 on Saturday.
"I guess if you play 130 Tests, it's got to come sometime," said Boucher.
"I'm obviously very chuffed, the more you play the more records you're going to break."