The Australia players gave him a guard of honour and an expectant Newlands crowd willed him to a century send-off, but South Africa captain Graeme Smith lasted just three balls in his final Test innings.
Set 511 for victory, Smith in his pomp would have been the perfect anchor for the innings, whether it be to chase the runs down or play out for the draw.
But he looked tentative and uncertain at the crease during his brief stay, the brash confidence of the past a distant memory.
When Mitchell Johnson arrowed a delivery into his body, all Smith could do was fend it to short leg where Alex Doolan completed the simplest of catches.
The crowd groaned because this was not the finish they had wanted, but, in truth, it was not a surprise after Smith had scored just 42 runs in five previous innings in the series.
He left the ground to a standing ovation, lifting his bat to the VIP suites where his family sat before trudging off with shoulders hunched.
After 12 years, 9,265 Test runs and 27 centuries, a giant of South African cricket had left the field for the final time.
Image: Graeme Smith walks onto field
Photograph: Shaun Roy/Reuters