KOLKATA: If South Africa manages to overcome Australia in the upcoming semi-final, it could be an especially gratifying victory, marking the shedding of their long-standing ‘World Cup chokers’ label, largely perpetuated by Australia’s historic role. Almost 25 years have passed since the unforgettable 1999 World Cup semi-final, where South Africa’s chance at victory slipped away due to a tied match and Australia’s superior position in the Super Sixes stage, leading to their elimination.
This momentous match at Edgbaston continues to haunt South African cricket, serving as a pivotal reference for their subsequent World Cup woes. The semi-final’s drama was intensified by the preceding Super Six encounter against Australia, where the latter’s captain, Steve Waugh, delivered a match-winning century, aided by a crucial drop catch by Herschelle Gibbs. Waugh’s alleged remark, “You’ve just dropped the World Cup,” added to the narrative, although neither player has confirmed it. This event turned the tide in Australia’s favor, rescuing them from the brink of elimination.
The semifinal rematch saw South Africa, needing a modest 214 runs for victory, reaching 205 for nine in the final over, with Lance Klusener on strike and Allan Donald at the other end. Klusener’s initial boundary hits raised hope, but a series of mishits followed, culminating in a fateful run attempt that left Donald stranded, his bat lost mid-run, and wicketkeeper Adam Gilchrist capitalizing on the chaos to seal South Africa’s demise.
This heartbreaking loss became emblematic of South Africa’s World Cup misfortunes. Subsequent tournaments saw them eliminated due to various reasons—a misjudgment of a rain-adjusted target in 2003, a heavy defeat against Australia in 2007, a stunning collapse against New Zealand in 2011, and a crushing semi-final loss to New Zealand in 2015.
The weight of these setbacks has lingered, with former Australian wicketkeeper Brad Haddin acknowledging he would exploit South Africa’s World Cup history in the upcoming semi-final, aiming to unsettle them mentally on the field. His comments indicate that the specter of past failures might play a role in the forthcoming clash between the two teams.