Twenty two years ago, at Sydney Cricket Ground, they were denied the opportunity to play the final of the World Cup by a highly idiotic formula, which penalised them for bowling economically. Rain interrupted the play for 12 minutes with South Africa 231/6 off 42.5 overs, needing to reach 253 from the next 13 deliveries. By applying the idiotic formula, the target was reduced by just one run, but the number of deliveries available to them was reduced to one only, in effect throwing them out of the event.
After this unjust ouster, they acquired the tag of chokers as they failed to click at critical moments despite being the favourites on many occasions. In the 1996 edition, they lost the quarter-final to the West Indies from a position of strength.
The most unfortunate loss for them, however, was that of 1999 World Cup semi-final against Australia. Needing just one run from three balls, their last two men, Lance Klusener (who had been their hero throughout the event) and Allan Donald messed it up all and got run out in a highly stupid fashion. Australia qualified for the final as they had finished higher on the Super Six table.
In the 2003 edition, which they co-hosted with Zimbabwe, they failed to qualify for the Super-Six stage.
In their 2007 semi-final against Australia, they choked again, crashing to 27 for 5 before limping to 149, which was never going to be a difficult target for Australia.
In 2011, they reached the last-eight stage in which they lost to New Zealand by 49 runs although they were set a small target of 222.
So, are they going to shed this ‘chokers’ tag this time? I expect them to do so. They have always been strong on paper and have usually done well, except in the knockout matches. So what is the difference this time? I think their current players are far more mentally tough than their predecessors. They always had very fine batsmen — Gary Kirsten, Hansie Cronje and Herschelle Gibbs, to name a few — as well as quality fast bowlers — Donald, Makhaya Ntini, Shaun Pollock and Klusener. But perhaps these players did not have nerves of steel as their current boys seem to have.
Their batting line is formed by such gritty players as AB de Villiers, Quinton de Kock, Faf du Plessis who have proved their skill in chasing big targets.
As regards bowling, they are a powerhouse; there can be no doubt about that. They have the world’s most frightening fast bowlers in Morne Morkel, Dale Steyn, and Vernon Philander, who can rip apart any batting line of the world. In December last year, they made a mockery of the celebrated Indian battling line, bowling them all out for just 146.
Besides, they have JP Duminy and Ryan McLaren, two quality all-rounders who have proved on many occasions that they can snatch a win from strong opponents.
AB de Villiers and Duminy recently proved their mettle in their first ODI against New Zealand when they crossed the target of 231 after losing the first four wickets for just 97.
So are they going to lift the trophy at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on March 29, 2015? I find no reason for saying ‘no’.