South Africa confront World Cup demons
JOHANNESBURG: For South Africans, there is no escape from the reality of the country’s bitter history of painful failure in World Cup knockout games.
“People will highlight the baggage — it’s like a big mirror that is always in front of you,” said South African captain Faf du Plessis before departing for England.
England was the scene of South Africa’s most spectacular implosion, 20 years ago, when the World Cup was last played there.
With the scores tied in a semi-final against Australia at Edgbaston, Lance Klusener and last man Allan Donald were involved in a near-farcical run-out that enabled Australia to go through to the final.
South Africa have reached the semi-finals in four of their seven World Cup campaigns but have yet to reach a final.
They have won only one of seven knockout matches, against Sri Lanka in the quarter-finals in 2015.
That rare victory was followed by a dramatic semi-final against New Zealand in Auckland, which ended with South African-born New Zealander Grant Elliott hitting Dale Steyn for a winning six off the penultimate ball.
Despite the frustrating history, Du Plessis believes the past has no relevance, other than providing a lesson that his team should trust their ability and play without a fear of failure if they reach the semi-finals this time.
“In previous World Cups, we wanted to do ‘Superman’ things. We thought we had to be more special, we had to do something more than we usually do, and we did not do what was good enough before,” Du Plessis said.
South Africa will go into this World Cup without the burden of being among the favourites, despite having won all five of the one-day international series they have played in the past year.