By Nick Mulvenney
SOUTH Africa made quite a statement in their quarter-final rout of Sri Lanka on Wednesday but AB de Villiers warned their rivals that reaching the last four of the World Cup was by no means the extent of their ambitions.
In the shortest knockout match at any World Cup, the Proteas crushed Sri Lanka by nine wickets with 32 overs to spare at the Sydney Cricket Ground to set up a semi-final meeting with New Zealand or West Indies in Auckland next Tuesday.
A brilliant display of bowling, most notably from spinners JP Duminy, who registered South Africa’s first World Cup hat-trick and Imran Tahir, set the foundation for a win which was secured by four runs from opener Quinton de Kock, who bucked his recent run of poor form with an unbeaten 78.
“A big part of sport is about confidence and the way you believe in your ability, and I truly believe that we feel really strong as a unit and confident going into the semi-finals,” skipper de Villiers said.
“Look, we didn’t come all this way to say that we made it to a semi-finals of a World Cup. We want to go all the way as a team, and we believe we have the right group here to achieve that.”
Such an impressive performance, which did have the air of the last couple of pieces of a jigsaw puzzle falling into place, would charge any side with confidence.
De Villiers, however, said the win had derived from an already established self belief and unity of the team.
“I just think we sort of committed to the fact that we’re not going to show any weakness,” he explained.
“You know that in knockout games things don’t always go your way. You can’t dominate cricket games for 100 overs. It never happens.
“You’ll take a couple of shots on the chin and the way you take it is really important, not to show any weakness to the opposition.
“I think everyone committed to that really well, and just to know that the guy next to you will go to war with you. I think we felt that walking onto the field today.”
Although South Africa have played in three previous World Cup semi-finals, they had never won a single knockout game before Wednesday night.
That might have put a dent in their reputation as ‘chokers’, particularly after losing the toss and being forced to bat second, but de Villiers was in no hurry to shed the tag.
“I think we liked being called chokers, so we’ll just keep that tag and move along as long as we keep winning,” he said.
“It’s a great achievement from a team that came here to win the World Cup. Our next hurdle is the semi-finals and we’ll try to find a way to get over that hurdle.
“We still have hopefully two games to go. We haven’t won the World Cup yet.
De Villiers’ counterpart Angelo Mathews called it Sri Lanka’s worst World Cup performance.
“There were no demons in the track. We could have batted well and got to at least 250 and give our bowlers a chance,” he said.
“I don’t know. Maybe the nerves, did not go for out shots maybe. Easily the worst performance in World Cup. It happened to be in the quarter-finals.”