"I dedicate this race to Alexander. I think about him a lot when I train. He was a role model for me," van der Burgh said to Norwegian broadcaster NRK after the race.
26-year-old Alexander Dale Oen died of heart failure in May while at a training camp in the USA. Dale Oen won the gold medal in the 100 metre breaststroke at the 2011 World Championships in Shanghai and would have been one of the favourites for Olympic gold in London.
Van der Burgh recognize this in interviews after his historic race and expressed a wish that his close friend and training partner could have been in the lane beside him battling it out for gold.
After winning the race the South Africa celebrated by lying on his back on the rope and pointing to the sky in what he explained was a tribute to his fallen friend.
"I thought that he would have wanted to be there," van der Burgh explained.
Van der Burgh's 100m breaststroke world record denied Kosuke Kitajima a historic treble and gave South Africa an Olympic swimming first.
Van der Burgh was never headed, winning in 58.46sec to better the previous world record of 58.58sec held by Australian Brenton Rickard.
He became the first South African man to claim individual Olympic swimming gold, although South Africa won the men's 4x100m freestyle relay in 2004.
"If there is such a thing as the perfect race, I think I swam it at the right time tonight," van der Burgh said.