The Silver Ferns will head into the Nations Cup netball final unbeaten after a scrappy 48-41 win over South Africa in London on Sunday (NZ time).
Having blitzed England and Jamaica in their first two games, the Ferns were expected to make light work of the Proteas, however, South Africa put up a brave fight.
Regardless, coach Dame Noeline Taurua was happy with walk away with the win and New Zealand will now take on Jamaica, who beat England 70-66, in Monday's final (6am NZ time).
"It was really torrid and physical out there," said Taurua. "I was pleased we were able to grind it out.
"We managed to get some young blood out there and that will help us, moving forward."
An upset looked likely when South Africa overcame a seven-goal halftime deficit to level the match late in the third quarter, but errors cost the Proteas at key moments.
But New Zealand were also guilty of being sloppy at times, while both teams struggled at times shooting the ball.
Ferns shooter Maia Wilson, who had only missed five shots in the first two games (68/73), missed six (24/30) against South Africa, while as a team New Zealand shot at 81 percent, their lowest percentage of the tournament so far.
South Africa were no better as they shot 75 percent (41/54).
Having used the same starting lineup against England and Jamaica, and with numerous players carrying injuries, Taurua switched things up, handing Kimiora Poi her first test start at centre, while Shannon Saunders dropped back to wing defence.
South Africa got off to a good start, as they held an early 4-2 lead, but it didn't take long for the Ferns to hit the front. At the end of the quarter, New Zealand led 14-11.
The Ferns scored the first four goals of the second term and took a 27-20 lead into the break.
South Africa then roared back into the match, going on a 10-4 run to level things up at 31-31, then 33-33.
But they couldn't capitalise on their chances and the Ferns pulled away to hold a three-goal buffer heading into the final quarter.
South Africa couldn't close the gap as the Ferns walked away with a gutsy win at the Copper Box Arena.
The Proteas have only beaten New Zealand once in 33 attempts, their sole win coming at the 1995 World Cup when Ferns legend Irene van Dyk was in their lineup.
Taurua said she will field her strongest squad for Monday's final.
Join us at 6am Monday for live updates of the Nations Cup final.