We're not 'chokers' insists defiant De Villiers

AB de Villiers yesterday maintained that South Africa's "chokers" tag belongs to a previous generation on the eve of their must-win contest against England. Although South Africa could still progress beyond Group B if England pull off another Champions Trophy upset, the hosts would be relying upon results going their way.

The Proteas began the tournament as favourites, but their opening-match humbling by Sri Lanka left them with no room for error. Graeme Smith's side have worked hard to rid themselves of their traditional reputation for bowing out of tournaments when fancied, although they were surprisingly eliminated from this year's World Twenty20 by Pakistan in the last four.

But De Villiers, who guided the Proteas to a five-wicket victory over New Zealand in their second match, said: "I don't see us as a team of chokers. I have never believed in that word. I don't even know what it means. There have been a lot of changes since the team was labelled as chokers.

"There are guys in the team now who are hungry to succeed. If we lose a game it is obviously because we didn't play well enough. We will give it our best shot and the best team will win the tournament. That's hopefully going to be us."

The South Africans comfortably dispatched England in a similar situation in the 2007 World Cup, and they are set to be boosted by the return of Herschelle Gibbs, who has an astonishing 21 one-day international hundreds to his name, for today's day-nighter at Centurion Park.

Gibbs, 35, passed a fitness test on a rib injury at a training session yesterday lunchtime and is set to replace Hashim Amla at the top of the order. But England have good recent form against the South Africans, having defeated them 4-0 in a series only 12 months ago. However, that jolted the Proteas into action and they have beaten Australia in series home and away since.

"After that England tour we had a massive discussion about where we went wrong, one-on-ones with each other and really focused on doing the basics," De Villiers said. "We have come a long way from there." Meanwhile, De Villiers praised Andrew Strauss's sportsmanship in calling back the Sri Lanka batsman Angelo Mathews in Friday night's win for England against Sri Lanka at The Wanderers, even suggesting that it was overly generous.

"It was very nice of him, I thought," he said. "It is a captain's decision, but if you look at the replay it was a little too friendly. It was his call on the field and hats off for him, it was good sportsmanship."

Elsewhere, the all-rounder James Franklin will replace the injured Jacob Oram in New Zealand's Champions Trophy squad. Oram damaged his hamstring in training and missed New Zealand's opening match against hosts South Africa on Thursday when they lost by five wickets. Franklin, 28, has played in 26 Tests and 65 ODIs, taking 80 and 64 wickets respectively.

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