The Proteas’ seven World Cup campaigns have been marred by awkward, premature exits. From rain-affected results, laughable run-outs, bizarre miscalculations and more – heartbreak has followed South Africa through four semi-final defeats.
Coach Ottis Gibson and captain Faf du Plessis have insisted the team will not focus on what happened in the past, but rather forge a fresh future. Whether that prospect includes a maiden World Cup title remains to be seen.
On paper, the Proteas have an excellent squad, even if the talented Reeza Hendricks could have been selected ahead of the veteran Hashim Amla. All-rounder Chris Morris, meanwhile, earned late inclusion in the wake of fast bowler Anrich Nortje’s injury.
The game, of course, is not played on paper – and the South Africans need to translate bounds of potential into results. Unlike previous campaigns, they are not necessarily among the favourites this time – and that ease in pressure could reap dividends.
Batsman to bank on
Du Plessis’ pursuit to achieve what other South African captains haven’t needs to be seasoned with plenty of runs. Becoming the first Proteas skipper to lift a World Cup trophy would genuinely elevate a career that currently sits on the precipice of good and great. Less talented but more of a grafter than predecessor AB de Villiers, du Plessis is well poised to perform when it matters most.
Bowler to bet on
Leg-spinner Imran Tahir will retire from the intermediate format the international game after this World Cup. He will head into the tournament on the back of a prolific 2019 Indian Premier League campaign, which yielded a resounding 26 wickets for the Chennai Super Kings. Proteas fast bowler Kagiso Rabada was second to Tahir, but with several less appearances – and is another backed to lead the line in the United Kingdom.
Defeat to England in the opening fixture on 30 May at The Oval in London won’t necessarily break the Proteas’ campaign, but victory will certainly bode well for June and beyond. Win, and they will lay and early marker. Lose, and they’ll gaps for other opposition to exploit.
South Africa will disappoint if unable to secure a semi-final berth. Beyond that, though, will depend almost entirely on whether the voodoo of past exits can be banished. All the talk of not being influenced by previous World Cup departures has to be justified by the type of walk – victories, progress, the title – the country has not seen previously.