Proteas coach Rob Walter has urged his team to enjoy the experience of playing in a World Cup semi-final.
South Africa will meet Australia at Eden Gardens in the second semi-final on Thursday, with unbeaten hosts India taking on New Zealand the day before.
“The semi-final becomes what you allow it to become,” Walter said when asked about the significance of the match.
“For us, it’s about acknowledging the occasion. I don’t ever want the players to downplay a semi-final, they’ve played bloody good cricket to get there. I’d rather tell them to enjoy the fact that they’re here, that we’ve played superbly.
“They need to enjoy the experience of playing in a semi-final, playing against a team that’s highly competitive and has started playing their best cricket to be fair.
“It’s a great challenge, but if we allow it to become more than that, it becomes restrictive. Each player needs to internalise this message and process it himself.
“We just want to play good, winning cricket and do the things we’ve done. When we started, there were must-win games from the start, all of them were, in fact, given how tight the World Cup was going to be. The only games that weren’t were the last two [of which we won one anyway].”
While many think the Proteas have exceeded expectations by reaching the semi-finals – which they failed to do in 2019 – Walter insists the team always believed they could do it.
“I don’t think the players would’ve bought into the narrative that there were lower expectations going into the tournament,” he said.
“They would back themselves right from the word go to be contenders. For us, the exciting part is the way we’ve played. No one gave us a chance of reaching the semi-finals. I didn’t hear or read one pundit putting us in the top four prior to the tournament.
“In the general sense, we weren’t even thought of [as potential semi-finalists]. Then we played some really good cricket, and what happens? The expectation rises and some people think we might have a chance now.”
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