JOHANNESBURG, (Reuters) – The pressure of the “chokers” tag caught up with South Africa and caused them to lose composure in their shock World Cup quarter-final defeat by New Zealand, coach Corrie van Zyl said on Sunday.
South Africa, despite invariably showing superb form in the early rounds, have never won a knockout game at the World Cup. This time was no different as after losing just one match to top Group B, they lost a fifth successive knockout game on Friday.
“Pressure is obviously a major thing in the World Cup and in the knockout rounds, especially because you know it’s your last opportunity,” Van Zyl told a news conference in Johannesburg.
“It’s important to keep your composure and we weren’t able to do that. Maybe it was the burden of previous generations that caused us to lose composure.
“The opposition see every opportunity to use the word ‘chokers’ on and off the field for one reason: to get at us mentally.
“But when our own fans keep reminding us of the past, it doesn’t provide motivation, it just brings extra pressure. We need to deal with this in a different way as a nation, we need to stick together.”
South Africa were 108 for two chasing what should have been a manageable 222 but they then crumbled and were bowled out for 172 in Dhaka on Friday.
“The pressure all starts building up, the players always get reminded of the past,” said Van Zyl. “Most of this squad were not part of the previous World Cup defeats, but the people make them a part of it.”
The Dhaka defeat was especially bitter for Van Zyl, who was an assistant coach at the 1999 World Cup, when South Africa were eliminated by Australia, and at the 2003 event they hosted.
“It’s hard to describe the disappointment the players went through. I’ve been part of three changeroom moods like that now. It will hurt for a long time,” Van Zyl said.
The coach dismissed suggestions the make-up of South Africa’s squad was wrong.
“I don’t think we needed anyone else apart from the 15 players we had there,” he said.
“For those conditions, it was the right 15, without question, and it was proven right through the World Cup. We played some seriously good cricket, barring 10 overs on Friday night.
“In hindsight, I would have prepared the same way and had the same personnel.”
The 49-year-old former fast bowler believed the current squad still had it in them to win a future World Cup.
“There’s a new team culture, they’re definitely taking a new direction and there’s no question they will be number one in the future and they will still win the World Cup if we all work together,” he said.
“There’s a lot of talent in the team, it’s important to keep it together, and all that experience and the lessons they have learnt should stand them in good stead.”
Van Zyl will now exit the coach’s role and return to his job as Cricket South Africa’s high performance manager. The governing body will consider the applications for his successor over the next fortnight, team manager Mohammed Moosajee said.