• Proteas must seize the moment

    The Proteas must learn from past mistakes and embrace the big pressure moments during the World Cup, writes JOHN GOLIATH.

    In president Cyril Ramaphosa’s first State of the Nation address, he called on South Africans to stand up and be counted to make a difference in the country. He quoted the late, great Hugh Masekela’s ‘Send Me’ for people to rise up and be of service.

    ‘Thuma Mina’ (Send Me) has been the president’s war cry to fight corruption, poverty, and tackling issues like the electricity and water crisis. He wants all the people in the country to “lend a hand”.’

    Ahead of the start of the 2019 World Cup, the ‘Thuma Mina’ concept is something the Proteas’ should adopt going into their eighth tournament since coming back into the international fold in 1992.

    South Africa’s World Cup heartache has been well documented ahead of the 2019 edition in England with painful reminders on our television screens and on the pages of newspapers and websites alike.

    I still find myself sitting on the couch hoping Allan Donald would take the run in 1999. I watch the 2003 highlights of the Proteas match against Sri Lanka, imploring Mark Boucher to take a single in the Durban rain.

    I thought if I watch the 2007 knockout match again, the Proteas would bat sensibility. But Jacques Kallis still yorks himself after advancing down the pitch to Glenn McGrath.

    Nothing changes. The rain still falls in 1992. Faf du Plessis runs out AB de Villiers in the 2011 quarter-final against New Zealand, and Johannesburg-born Grant Elliott still pumps Dale Steyn for six to clinch the semi-final for the Kiwis at Eden Park in 2015.

    It’s pretty hard to watch as a South African. It was even harder then. I remember my dad spending most of the night after the Edgbaston tie against Australia locked up in the toilet, while a mate of mine jumped into the pool four years ago to hide his tears.

    On Thursday it’s that time again. The Cricket World Cup is back, and suddenly those scars we forgot about are suddenly sensitive again. South Africans suddenly fear the worst. ‘How are the Proteas going to contrive to break our hearts again?’

    Reflecting on these failures over the last few days may have been brutal, but there are actually so many lessons in there for the modern-day Proteas. From 1992 to 2015, there is something to be taken away which can be turned into something positive.

    The biggest lesson for me was that South Africa need big individual performances at this World Cup when the big moments come around.

    Lance Klusener was South Africa’s ace match-winner 10 years ago, but even he couldn’t get the team over the line in a World Cup knockout.

    Watching highlights of the Proteas’ failures, it felt like the South African cricketers wanted to be given the World Cup instead of taking it. Afraid to seize the moment.

    South Africa had talented teams, but while cricket  may be a team sport, great individual performances win World Cups. The Wasim Akrams, Steve Waughs and Arivinda de Silvas of this world are testimony to that fact.

    Players in the Proteas’ team have got to go into this World Cup and ride the big moments into the sunset. Their predecessors froze during their dates with destiny and wilted in the spotlight.

    This team should embrace it. It’s the only way to reverse the World Cup curse.

    As the great Masekela said: ‘I want to lend a hand. Send me.’

    Photo: Getty

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    John Goliath