16 Nov 2023

Australia's credentials keep South Africa grounded before Cricket World Cup semis

5:30 am on 16 November 2023
South Africa's Gerald Coetzee celebrates the wicket of New Zealand's Will Young.

South Africa Photo: Photosport

South Africa captain Temba Bavuma senses they are on the cusp of something special at the 50-overs Cricket World Cup but it is the pedigree of their opponents, five-time champions Australia, which is keeping them grounded ahead of Thursday's semi-final.

South Africa have never progressed beyond the semi-finals of the tournament, impeded by a combination of bad luck and nerves, but they have looked formidable this time winning seven of their nine group matches.

"With the way we've performed as a team, it's obviously created a lot of positive sentiments and obviously high expectation," said Bavuma, who is doubtful for the match with a hamstring strain.

"A lot of people believe that this could be the year that we see ourselves in the final. As a team, and individually, we'd like nothing better than that."

For that, they would have to get the better of Australia, the most successful team in the history of the tournament, who began their campaign with back-to-back defeats but have since won seven in a row to waltz into the last four.

The enormity of the challenge was not lost on Bavuma despite South Africa's comprehensive victory against Australia in a group match last month.

"We're not coming up against a Mickey Mouse team. Australia have a lot of experience and confidence in knockout games like this, so we've got to respect that," Bavuma said.

"I think from our performances, from the processes that we've followed to get to this point, we'll continue to lean on that and we believe that will take care of the result."

Bavuma did not deny a "normal level of anxiety" prevailing in the Proteas dressing room but said they had the "solutions and mechanisms" to deal with that.

Drawing inspiration from South Africa rugby team's World Cup victory last month is very much part of that mechanism.

"Yeah, definitely. I think to a large degree we look at them in awe - the Springboks and how they've gone about their back-to-back wins in the World Cup," Bavuma said admiring the grit of the rugby team.

"...that's what we've been speaking about as a team that when the crunch moment comes, when the pressure moments come, we come together as a team and we find a way to get over the line."

Bavuma said they would take a late call on his participation in the match.

"Obviously not 100 percent... I'm quite confident, but it's not a unilateral decision that will be made," he added.

Should he miss the semi-finals, Aiden Markram would lead South Africa, while Reeza Hendricks is likely to open alongside Quinton de Kock.