South Africa are in form, have beaten Australia in their past four clashes, and qualified higher heading into Thursday’s World Cup semi-final at Kolkata. But they have the weight of history on their shoulders. A history of choking in World Cup matches, snatching defeat from the jaws of victory in excruciating and sometimes comical fashion. Here is South Africa’s sorry record of falling short when the pressure is on. 1992 World Cup: In their return tournament after the apartheid ban, the South Africans surged to the World Cup semi-finals in Australia and looked to be too good for England. They were 4-131 with 122 runs to get when a slow 24 from 46 from young all-rounder Hansie Cronje put them behind the eight ball. They ended up losing because of a farcical rain rule which shortened a chase of 22 from 13 balls was cut by two overs but they should have wrapped up the win sooner by stepping on the accelerator before it was too late. In 1999 World Cup Super Six stage, they had Australia on the ropes and if they’d beaten them, Steve Waugh’s side was going home from England early. And when Waugh chipped a catch to Herschelle Gibbs and he snaffled the chance, the match was as good as over. But he famously lost the ball in his premature celebration, Waugh scored a match-winning ton to chase down the target of 272 in the final over and the Proteas didn’t yet realize how costly that would be.
The 1999 World Cup semi-final is the mother of all chokes. In what is considered the greatest ODI of all time, South Africa looked like cruising to victory after containing Australia to 213 and starting strongly with the bat, before a collapse. Player of the tournament Lance Klusener then bashed them back into the contest, blasting back-to-back boundaries off Damien Fleming to tie the scores. But unfortunately, he and No.11 Allan Donald produced a calamitous run-out to save Australia, who advanced to the final, which they won, on account of the Super Six win.
They also experienced choking in the 2002 Champions Trophy semi-finals, the 2003 World Cup group stage, 2007 World Cup semi-final, 2011 World Cup quarter-final, 2015 World Cup semifinal vs New Zealand, 2017 Champions Trophy group stage, and 2022 T20 World Cup.