"It would have been great to win the series 3-0," McCullum said. "But winning the series, achieving what we've achieved in this series and even how we've played today as well, we've showed the characteristics that we want to be known for."
New Zealand made a shaky start after choosing to bat and were 68 for 4 in the 22nd over. But resurgent half-centuries by Grant Elliott, Colin Munro and James Franklin lifted them to a competitive 260. South Africa responded with a controlled chase, but the fall of Graeme Smith towards the end of the innings allowed the New Zealand bowlers to exert pressure on the inexperienced middle-order and almost pull off another win.
''Our bowlers tried hard all day. The wicket did skid on a little bit, and it was probably slightly easier to bat on in that second innings," McCullum said. "But that's the nature of the toss as well and playing in foreign conditions. I can't speak highly enough of the effort from our guys."
''I thought we showed some real character and some real fighting qualities to hang in there, when we were behind the eight ball and get ourselves back in the game. Graeme Smith's innings today was a phenomenal innings and deserved to be on the winning side.
After the humiliation in the two Tests, McCullum saw the result in the ODIs as a big boost. He said the team showed it was capable of competing with the best but now needs to do it on a consistent basis.
"We competed in the Twenty20s, but South Africa deserved the result; in Tests we were blown off the park by a team at the top of their game. It was a learning opportunity to see the best in action and see how far we need to improve, but to win the ODI series has been satisfying, not only for the group of players, but also for the management and the fans."