He then returned to marshal his bowlers who restricted England to 193 for seven for a win that snuffed out 2010 champions England’s last four prospects at the Zahur Ahmed Chowdhury Stadium.
“It was important for the team to go through to the semis and get him (du Plessis) back and pumped-up for the next game,” man-of-the-match de Villiers said at the presentation ceremony.
“It was important to show a bit of passion … we are a proud nation and those things come naturally to us.”
For England, Alex Hales (38) benefited from a dubious no-ball decision and with Michael Lumb (18) added 46 runs in 4.4 overs before Wayne Parnell came up with a three-wicket burst to virtually derail England’s chase.
Leg-spinner Imran Tahir claimed the important wickets of Eoin Morgan (14) and Jos Buttler (34) who fought valiantly before his dismissal that virtually sealed the fate of the contest.
“Obviously we’re heartbroken to come out on the wrong side of it but you have to give full credit to the way AB has batted through the end,” England captain Stuart Broad said.
“It didn’t go plan in the last three overs (conceding 55 runs) but apart from that it was a good game for us.”
Ravi Bopara hit a defiant 31 down the order but it was not enough in the end.
The winner of Monday’s Sri Lanka v New Zealand match will join South Africa, and India and another team from Group Two, in the last four.
It was a lionhearted effort from left-arm paceman Parnell, playing his first match in the tournament after attending a mandatory court appearance in Mumbai in a drug-related case.
Earlier, Hashim Amla (56) dominated a 90-run opening partnership with Quinton de Kock (29) proving once again it is possible to score briskly without looking ugly.
Not even two power failures, each halting play for about 10 minutes, could affect Amla’s concentration as the elegant batsman flicked and drove with elan.
The bearded right-hander raced to a 30-ball half-century after Buttler missed an easy stumping opportunity to give him a life on 19.
England captain Broad dismissed Amla in his second over but not before the batsman had given South Africa a strong start.
De Villiers played like only he can, unfurling his whole range of cheeky shots to frequently defy the English field setting in his unbeaten 28-ball blitz that contained three sixes and nine fours.
(Reporting by Amlan Chakraborty,; editing by Pritha Sarkar)