South Africa are in form, have beaten Australia in their past four clashes and qualified higher heading into Thursday’s World Cup semi-final at Kolkata.
But they have the weight of history on their shoulders.
A history of choking in World Cup matches, snatching defeat from the jaws of victory in excruciating and sometimes comical fashion.
Here is South Africa’s sorry record of falling short when the pressure is on.
1992 World Cup: In their return tournament after the apartheid ban, the South Africans surged to the World Cup semi-finals in Australia and looked to be too good for England. They were 4-131 with 122 runs to get when a slow 24 from 46 from young all-rounder Hansie Cronje put them behind the eight ball. They ended up losing because of a farcical rain rule which shortened a chase of 22 from 13 balls was cut by two overs but they should have wrapped up the win sooner by stepping on the accelerator before it was too late.
1999 World Cup Super Six stage: They had Australia on the ropes and if they’d beaten them, Steve Waugh’s side was going home from England early. And when Waugh chipped a catch to Herschelle Gibbs and he snaffled the chance, the match was as good as over. But he famously lost the ball in his premature celebration, Waugh scored a match-winning ton to chase down the target of 272 in the final over and the Proteas didn’t yet realise how costly that would be.
1999 World Cup semi-final: The mother of all chokes. In what is considered the greatest ODI of all time, South Africa looked like cruising to victory after containing Australia to 213 and starting strongly with the bat, before a collapse. Player of the tournament Lance Klusener then bashed them back into the contest, blasting back-to-back boundaries off Damien Fleming to tie the scores. But unfortunately he and No.11 Allan Donald produced a calamitous run-out to save Australia, who advanced to the final, which they won, on account of the Super Six win.
2002 Champions Trophy semi-finals: India had batted well to make 262 in Colombo but the Protease were eating that up at 1-192 when Gibbs retired hurt with cramps in his hands. Needing 70 off the final 14 overs should have been a doddle but they panicked, scoring just 60 to miss another golden chance of silverware.
2003 World Cup group stage: With rain threatening to wash away their group game against Sri Lanka, keeper Mark Boucher whacked a six to put them ahead of the par score. Or so he thought. It turned out the Proteas had botched the figures and Boucher, who had played out a dot ball to finish the fateful over, could have lifted them to victory if he had knocked the ball for a single.
2007 World Cup semi-final: They were outsiders against Australia at St Lucia and after an impressive run to the semis, the Proteas wilted when the heat was on from the get-go. After slumping to 5-27 they managed a paltry 149 which the Aussies swallowed up inside 32 overs.
2011 World Cup quarter-final: They were cruising at 2-108 in pursuit of New Zealand’s 221 but a flurry of wickets and a trademark unnecessary run-out meant they lost 8-62 to fall well short of the target.
2015 World Cup semifinal vs New Zealand: They whacked the Kiwi bowlers to all parts of Eden Park to set them a daunting target of 298 and this time they botched run-outs in the field with AB de Villiers and Quinton de Kock making glaring blunders as NZ batter Grant Elliott blasted the Black Caps into the final with just one delivery to spare. Elliott was of course born in South Africa but left for New Zealand because they wouldn’t give him a go.
2017 Champions Trophy group stage: Taking on India for a virtual playoff for the semis, they were travelling nicely at 2-140 before one of those batting collapses reared its ugly head just when South Africa started looking like they were on the road to victory. They were bowled out for 191 with three run-outs thrown into the mix of their 8-51 spiral. India then showed them how it’s done by peeling off the runs with eight wickets and 12 overs to spare.
2022 T20 World Cup: It’s not just in the ODI format that the Proteas can lose when least expected. All they had to do for a spot in the semis was to account for an ICC associate nation in the Netherlands but after being set a target of 159, the powerful South African batters suffered an untimely case of stagefright and they lost by 13 runs.