Proteas not quite like the Springboks

There almost certainly will not be scores of fans at the OR Tambo International Airport to welcome the Proteas back from India when they touch down after another World Cup campaign to forget.

Unlike the Springboks, their rugby counterparts, the South African men’s cricket team will not be returning home as world champions, having been dumped out of the World Cup by Australia.

Ever since the Boks defeated New Zealand in an epic World Cup final a few weeks ago, the Proteas have been under pressure to emulate Jacques Nienaber’s team.

The Boks have built a reputation as clutch performers who thrive under pressure, while the Proteas, on the other hand, are the exact opposite, often crumbling whenever they are under the pump.

The Boks dug deep against France in the quarterfinals, England in the semis and the All Blacks in the final to clinch a record fourth World Cup title, having displayed plenty of Big Match Temperament (BMT) throughout.

As for the Proteas, the minute the going got tough, they capitulated and allowed the opponent, whom they had the measure of having beaten them in the Pool stages, to grab the match by the scruff of the neck.

Sunday World looks at what went wrong for the Proteas in India as they again flattered to deceive.

A missed opportunity:

Rob Walter’s side had an opportunity to finally get rid of the unwanted “Chokers” tag this year after reaching the knock-out stages of the World Cup with relative ease in India.

However, they let that opportunity slip right through their fingers and the wait for their maiden World Cup continues after yet another horror show in a semifinal against the Aussies.

The Proteas have yet to reach a final in 16 previous attempts in the ODI and T20 World Cups,  which is shocking given the amount of talent the country has produced over the years.

A combination of bad luck and nerves in the business end of the showpiece event has seen them fail dismally in their bid to clinch the title time and time again.

An inept leader:

In the build up to the game, Proteas skipper Temba Bavuma admitted that he was “not 100% fit” but desperation to make some sort of contribution in a semifinal forced him to selfishly make himself available against Australia.

A fully fit Bavuma had failed to make any significant contribution as a batsman leading up to the semifinals, so it boggles the mind as to how a less than 100% fit and terribly out-of-form player would suddenly set the tournament alight.

He failed to pass fifty in any of his first seven appearances and was removed for a duck in the semi-final, setting the tone for what would be a horrible effort with the bat for the Proteas.

Bavuma also didn’t cover himself in glory with his decision making throughout the semifinal, beginning with the toss where he inexplicably opted to bat first when conditions underheard were conducive for bowling first and making the most of the early movement.

The skipper also inexplicably persisted with expensive fast bowlers early on when it was evident that a change was necessary given the success that the spinners were having as the game progressed.

The ‘Chokers’:

Ever since the country’s return to the international stage in 1992, The Proteas have been one of the best teams to never win the World Cup and the biggest reason has been their inability to cope with pressure.

As soon as skipper Bavuma nicked off in the first over for a duck, the dreaded “Chokers” name was already floating about, with South Africans fearing the worst, and it proved to be only the beginning of a catastrophe.

As they have done in big games on so many occasions in the past, the Proteas failed to manage anxiety and cope with the demands of the big moment, leading to a big drop in performance.

Heading into the tournament, Bavuma admitted that the “Chokers” tag would follow the team until they managed to finally get over the line and win their maiden World Cup.

“As a South African team, we know we’re going to have that chip on our block, or that narrative that we have to get over,” said Bavuma.

“That’s always going to be there until we win a trophy.”

The signs:

Although the Proteas cruised into the knockout stages in India, they did not make it through unscathed and the signs were there, particularly against the Netherlands and hosts India, the only two games they lost in the Pool stages.

They were demolished by the Indian batsmen in their final Pool match but the biggest sign was against the Dutch where the Proteas seemingly suffered another brain freeze in their chase of 245, falling well short in the end.

Latest News