SYDNEY: South Africa captain AB de Villiers threw the tag of “chokers” back in the face of the team’s critics following their World Cup quarter-final rout of Sri Lanka on Wednesday.
The Proteas were in dominant form, triumphing by nine wickets at the Sydney Cricket Ground as they finally won a World Cup knockout match at the sixth time of asking.
“I think we liked being called chokers, so we’ll just keep that tag and move along as long as we keep winning,” said de Villiers.
“We didn’t come all this way just to make it to the semi-finals,” added the skipper, not required to bat on Wednesday after making a stunning 162 not out against the West Indies on his last SCG appearance during the pool stage.
South Africa’s victory over Sri Lanka was all but assured after they dismissed the 1996 champions and runners-up at the last two World Cups for just 133.
De Villiers lost the toss but, following good work by the Proteas’ pacemen, leg-spinner Imran Tahir took four for 26 and off-spinner JP Duminy’s haul of three for 29 included a hat-trick.
South Africa now face a semi-final in Auckland on March 24 against the winners of this Saturday’s match between New Zealand and the West Indies.
‘Don’t show weakness’
“It means a lot to us,” said de Villiers of South Africa’s victory.
“On the other side, it means absolutely nothing. You’re going to have to start over again. We are committed to the fact that we’re not going to show any weakness.”
Reflecting on Wednesday’s display in the field, de Villiers said: “I wouldn’t say it’s the best, but definitely the most important performance in the most important game to date.
“The way Dale (Steyn) and Kyle (Abbott) started off and then Morne (Morkel) who followed with a lot of heat, and then obviously the two spinners. We just worked really well as a bowling unit.
“It’s never easy to play Sri Lanka, especially in World Cup games. They’re a tough team to beat, so I’m very chuffed with what we’ve achieved, and I’d like us to enjoy this victory tonight and move on tomorrow.”
Rounding off a perfect evening for South Africa, previously struggling 22-year-old opener Quinton de Kock — whose six previous innings at the World Cup had yielded just 53 runs — made 78 not out as the Proteas won with a huge 32 overs to spare.
“We all go through patches like he did in this tournament,” said de Villiers. “We’ve all been in dark spaces, and I think he has been in this tournament.
“A lot of credit goes to the selectors, to the coach (Russell Domingo), the guys who kept backing him.
“I think they must have been tempted a few times to let him go and maybe for me to take the gloves, but it was a great call from them to stick with him. He had a fantastic game and took a couple of crucial catches.
“The way he batted with confidence was amazing.
“At that age, to go through a patch like he has been going through, to come out there in a quarter-finals of the World Cup with confidence shows what kind of a player he is.”
Meanwhile, de Villiers dismissed talk South Africa might suffer a mental let-down at the sheer joy of ending their World Cup knockout hoodoo.
“Luckily, we didn’t have to work too hard physically, it wasn’t that strenuous, and there’s plenty of time for recovery from whatever stress we took into it (the match).
“It was just a really good team effort,” he added. (AFP)