Bowling coach Allan Donald has admitted South Africa will not lose their “chokers” tag until they win a major tournament.
The Proteas are again among the favourites to win the World Cup, but again any discussion about their prospects inevitably returns to their inability to win in the latter stages. They have never reached a World Cup final and have won just one match in the knockout stages since their famous exit to Australia in 1999.
“That tag will never go away,” said Donald, who was the man run out when the Proteas tied that Edgbaston semi-final to exit the tournament. “That will never go away until we win an ICC event. We’ve got to come out and prove it.”
South Africa open their campaign against Zimbabwe at Seddon Park in Hamilton tomorrow. The focus of attention leading up to the game has centred on the fitness of spearhead Dale Steyn after he was rested for South Africa’s final warm-up match against New Zealand. Steyn joined a four-hour training session yesterday and Donald confirmed he would be fit to play.
“Everyone is fine,” he said. “We rested Dale in the previous match to make sure he is 110 per cent but everyone is fine.”
Cricket World Cup 2015: 10 young players to watch
Cricket World Cup 2015: 10 young players to watch
1/10 Usman Ghani, 18, Afghanistan
At just over 18 years old, Ghani is the youngest player at the tournament, but the attacking opener already has an ODI century to his name. If the Aghans are to spring a shock, much will depend on him getting them off to a good start.
2/10 Pat Cummins, 21, Australia
With his wonderful action and searing pace, Cummins burst onto the scene when he took seven wickets as an 18-year-old Test debutant against South Africa. Terrible injuries have prevented him from adding to his solitary Test cap, but now the stage is set for Cummins to re-establish himself as one of cricket's hottest talents.
3/10 Mominul Haque, 23, Bangladesh
A compact left-handed batsman, Haque will occupy the No.3 spot in the Bangladeshi batting order. He has already made 24 ODI appearances, but thus far has enjoyed more success in the longer format - in 12 Test appearances he has plundered almost 1200 runs at 63.05, with four centuries.
4/10 Jos Buttler, 24, England
One of the genuine box-office talents in the England squad, Buttler's 121 against Sri Lanka last summer was the most eye-catching innings of the season. His keeping needs work, but as a mid- to lower-order batsman he has the talent to change the course of a game in the blink of the eye.
5/10 Akshar Patel, 21, India
One of the few positives of India's disastrous recent Tri-Series with Australia and England was the consistency of Patel, who was miserly and probing with his tight left-arm spin. He enjoyed a superb 2014 IPL season with 16 wickets and an economy rate of just 6.22 for Kings XI Punjab.
6/10 George Dockrell, 22, Ireland
Despite having been a mainstay of the Ireland side since his debut in 2010, and with four county seasons at Somerset under his belt, Dockrell is still only 22. The canny spinner was named the ICC Associate Player of the Year in 2012, and he has been touted to follow Eoin Morgan into England colours.
7/10 Kane Williamson, 24, New Zealand
Williamson is the most consistent performer in a dangerous New Zealand batting line-up, his devastating recent form in all forms of cricket cementing his reputation as one of the most exciting, talented batsmen in world cricket. Having recently had his action cleared, he can now resume bowling his useful off-spin.
8/10 Ahmed Shehzad, 23, Pakistan
Despite his tender age, Shehzad boasts a wealth of experience, with over 50 ODI appearances and six centuries to his name. More of a classical, patient opener than a David Warner-esque pinch-hitter, he will lay the foundation from which Pakistan's big-hitting middle order can tee off.
9/10 Quinton de Kock, 22, South Africa
Since making his debut just after his 20th birthday, De Kock has been an aggressive, punchy performer at the top of the South African order, plundering six hundreds in just 36 matches. A tidy gloveman, who by taking over keeping duties has allowed AB De Villiers to focus on his batting, to devastating effect.
10/10 Tendai Chatara, 23, Zimbabwe
An athletic opening bowler with a curious, idiosyncratic action, Chatara takes the ball away from the right-hander at decent pace and is Zimbabwe's key strike bowler. His maiden Test five-wicket haul set up a famous victory over Pakistan in 2013.
With a fully fit squad, the Proteas have set about knuckling down in training after they were soundly beaten by the Kiwis in Christchurch to round out their preparations. “We got on the bus in Christchurch after the New Zealand game, and A B [de Villiers] just said: ‘It’s time to lock in’,” Donald added. “Everyone’s excited. Even arriving here for this training session, we know it’s right on the doorstep. We’re very eager to get on with it.”
South Africa have lost to Zimbabwe just twice in 37 one-day internationals, but their cross-border rivals proved they can upset the best when they defeated Australia for the first time in 31 years last August. South Africa saw the shock result first-hand – they were the third team in the Harare Tri-series.
Zimbabwe completed their World Cup preparations with a seven-wicket win over Sri Lanka on Tuesday.
Tomorrow at the World Cup
South Africa v Zimbabwe
Tomorrow, 1am GMT.
Pool B, Hamilton; Sky Sports 2
Weather Warm and sunny with patchy cloud. Max temp: 26C
South Africa (probable) AB de Villiers (capt), HM Amla, KJ Abbott, Q de Kock (wk), JP Duminy, F du Plessis, Imran Tahir, M Morkel, WD Parnell, VD Philander, DW Steyn
Zimbabwe (probable) E Chigumbura (capt), RW Chakabva (wk), CJ Chibhabha, CR Ervine, T Kamungozi, H Masakadza, SF Mire, T Mupariwa, Sikandar Raza, BRM Taylor, SC Williams
Umpires R Tucker (Aus) & R Martinesz (SL)
India v Pakistan
Tomorrow, 3.30am GMT
Pool B, Adelaide; Sky Sports 2
Weather Warm and overcast. Max temp: 35C
India (probable) MS Dhoni (capt/wk), R Ashwin, S Dhawan, RA Jadeja, V Kohli, AR Patel, AM Rahane, SK Raina, AT Rayudu, MM Sharma, RG Sharma
Pakistan (probable) Misbah-ul-Haq (capt), Ahmed Shehzad, Haris Sohail, Nasir Jamshed, Shahid Afridi, Sohaib Maqsood, Sohail Khan, Umar Akmal (wk), Wahab Riaz, Yasir Shah, Younis Khan
Umpires R Kettleborough (Eng) & I Gould (Eng)
Ireland v West Indies
Tomorrow, 10pm GMT
Pool B, Nelson; Sky Sports 2
Weather Warm and sunny with patchy cloud. Max temp: 24C
Ireland (probable) WTS Porterfield (capt), A Balbirnie, AR Cusack, EC Joyce, AR McBrine, JF Mooney, KJ O’Brien, NJ O’Brien (wk), MC Sorensen, PR Stirling, GC Wilson
West Indies (probable) JO Holder (capt), CH Gayle, MN Samuels, DM Bravo, JL Carter, D Ramdin (wk), KAJ Roach, AD Russell, DJG Sammy, LMP Simmons, DR Smith
Umpires R Illingworth (Eng) & B Oxenford (Aus)