MUMBAI: Skipper Faf du Plessis acknowledged Friday South Africa’s reputation as big-match chokers had become “a monkey on the back” of the team that they would only shed by winning an international trophy.
Since their readmission in 1991 after the apartheid era ban, the Proteas have been the nearly men of world cups in both T20 and 50 over cricket, falling agonisingly short of the final on several occasions.
Their defeat to New Zealand in the semi-final of last year’s World Cup, after a disastrous final over by star bowler Dale Steyn, revived accusations that the team are “chokers” who can’t handle pressure.
Asked about the chokers tag at a press conference ahead of the World T20 in India, du Plessis said they were coping better at crunch points in tight matches and had improved their record on chasing totals.
“The only way you can get rid of that (the chokers’ tag) is to perform under pressure,” said the 31-year-old batsman.
“I think it’s fair but the only way you will ever get that monkey off your back is if you do win a trophy.
“For now this team hasn’t been thinking of that at all, we are just trying to play good cricket and the important thing for me is that in the build-up to this World Cup … there’s been real pressure moments that the team has stood up and played well.”
Despite their failure to win a major trophy, South Africa go into the tournament as one of the favourites and are currently in third place in the T20 world rankings.
Du Plessis said that hosts India are favourites after an impressive run of victories, but added that South Africa were in with a shout in what he predicted would be a “cracker” of a tournament.
“The majority of the squad play IPL cricket so for us its not foreign conditions, we know what to expect here,” he said in reference to India’s lucrative T20 domestic league.
“We know that if we do play our best cricket then we will be there or thereabouts… In T20 cricket, anyone can beat anyone on their day so we are looking forward to the competition. I think it’s going to be a real cracker.”
South Africa’s opening match is against England in Mumbai on Friday, March 18.