Another major international ICC tournament. Another consolatory competitor’s ribbon for South Africa.
This is a cricketing powerhouse with a serious allergy to trophies. Their superstar individuals continually prove that their collective DNA is spoiled by badly-timed success repellent.
Barring a few catastrophic outings, their campaigns seem to always follow a similar pathway.
Start in the top bracket of favourites thanks to loads of pre-event consistency, belligerently cremate all-comers in the early rounds and build an unbeatable aura before cratering in grandiose fashion when the finish line is in sight.
On Wednesday night in London, like day turns to night, the trend continued.
This time around, the exit was at their preferred semi-final stage, a comfortable seven-wicket trouncing from the English being the door slapping their behinds as they departed from the Champions Trophy.
In fairness to the Proteas, they were down a block of star power and their campaign will be remembered as a spluttering affair overall, but at the end of the day, it was another asphyxiation at a competition’s pointy-end.
Even coach Gary Kirsten admitted bluntly in the aftermath: “I think we did choke again today.”
South Africa’s record in shorter form tournaments makes them the pre-2011 All Blacks of limited overs cricket.
Besides snagging the 1998 Champions Trophy title in its early knockout format, they have gone silverware-hungry ever since, and sometimes in cruel and calamitous fashion.
How’s this for a bitter wrap sheet?
In the 16 major ICC tournaments since 1992 (six World Cups, six Champions Trophies and four World T20s), the Proteas have fallen short in the following ways:
- Only once made a final (winning the ’98 Champions Trophy)
- Lost at the semi-final stage seven times
- Topped their pool in the group stages five times before losing a knockout final
- Gone undefeated through the group stages three times before losing a knockout final
- Been eliminated twice in the group stages at a home tournament
From this melange of implosion, there’s been some unforgettable dip-outs. The run-rate fleecing of 1992 and panicked freeze of 1999 in World Cup semi-finals are two of the more famous cold-blooded farewells, both of which have become folklore in their own rights.
However, to celebrate another campaign of heartbreak, I’ve chosen a couple of lesser lights in the Protean catalogue of stuff-ups, mainly to celebrate their unshakable consistency, but also to feel better about Australia’s current predicament.
1996 World Cup
On the back of Kirsten’s batting heroics, South Africa surged through the pool stage undefeated with five comfortable victories on the trot before losing to the West Indies in a quarter-finals boilover.
2003 World Cup
Under pressure at home, the Proteas endured a stop-start pool stage which saw them requiring a win against Sri Lanka in the final match to advance. In a rain-affected affair, the hosts managed to botch their chase with an unbelievable mathematical faux pas before the rain set in, leaving a tied result and another bizarre exit.
2009 World T20 Championship
Waltzed through the group stages with five consecutive wins of considerable size, which was evidenced in their whopping +3.275 net run rate. Looked unbackable to complete the task until their first sighting of sudden-death, where they folded to Pakistan in the semi-finals.
2011 World Cup
Finished the group stages with an imposing 5-1 record, placing them neck and neck with hosts India as title favourites. Dreams of a drought-breaking victory were replaced by normal transmission in the quarter-finals, when they sensationally collapsed to be all out for 172 while chasing New Zealand’s 8/221.