"My hundred in Jamaica comes pretty close but this was definitely the best," he said. "It was always going to be difficult to score 270 on this wicket."
Waugh dug in to lead Australia to a two-wicket victory in a topsy-turvy match at St George's Park. Just as his tour de force seemed to have made victory a formality, Australia lost three wickets in 11 balls, collapsing from 258 for 5 to 265 for 8, still five runs short.
Their victory came in dramatic fashion when Ian Healy flicked Hansie Cronje for six over square leg.
Waugh's century in his 100th Test innings took them to the brink of an unbeatable 2-0 lead in the three-match series. Australia won the first Test by an innings and 196 runs in Johannesburg. This was South Africa's first defeat in a home Test series since returning to international cricket in 1991.
The Springboks sniffed a chance of victory in the pre-lunch session when the visitors lost Steve Waugh for 18 and Greg Blewett for seven. Australia went into lunch on 204 for 5, but Mark Waugh and Michael Bevan took their side to within sight of victory with a 54-run partnership before Jacques Kallis struck.
Kallis, who had claimed the wicket of Steve Waugh, uprooted Mark Waugh's middle stump and then trapped Shane Warne lbw. The wickets came either side of Bevan's dismissal.
Bevan, who contributed a watchful 24 in 98 minutes, edged Cronje to Daryll Cullinan at first slip, four balls after Waugh had departed.
For Mark Taylor, the Australian captain, the victory was a bittersweet one. After playing his 17th and 18th successive Test innings without a 50, he led his side to their first series victory over South Africa since 1957-58.
"It's not up to me or the players to say that we are the best. The scribes can say that and hand out titles. But I'm delighted with the way we are playing and as long as we keep winning Test matches and series, then I can't be happier," he said.
Despite speculation that Taylor may be forced to leave himself out, he remains determined to stay. "I'll definitely be playing in the third Test next week. I have no plans to drop myself."
Australia's coach, Geoff Marsh, supported his captain. "He's a tougher man than you and I," he said of his former opening partner.
"We are all 100 per cent behind him. Every day we do as much as we can to help him. The way he carries himself in the dressing-room is unbelievable because he is so disappointed with his own form."
Cronje, the South Africa captain, was generous in his praise for Australia and, particularly, for Waugh. "I can't heap enough praise on him. It was a fantastic innings in difficult conditions. He was the difference between the teams."
Fourth day; Australia won toss
SOUTH AFRICA -First Innings 209 (B M McMillan 55; J N Gillespie 5-54).
AUSTRALIA - First Innings 108
SOUTH AFRICA - Second Innings 168
AUSTRALIA - Second Innings
(Overnight 145 for 3)
M E Waugh b Kallis 116
S R Waugh c Cronje b Kallis 18
G S Blewett b Adams 7
M G Bevan c Cullinan b Cronje 24
I A Healy not out 10
S K Warne lbw b Kallis 3
J N Gillespie not out 0
Extras (b11 lb8 w3) 22
Total (for 8) 271
Fall (cont): 4-167 5-192 6-258 7-258 8-265.
Bowling: Donald 26-6-75-0 (w1); McMillan 21-5-46-1; Cronje 9.3-1-36-1 (w1); Kallis 16-7-29-3; Adams 21-4-66-2 (w1).
Umpires: S Venkataraghavan (Ind) and R Koertzen (SA).Reuse content