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  Thursday, 26 September, 2002, 12:36 GMT 13:36 UK
South Africa's soft centre
Allan Donald is run out to give Australia victory in the 1999 World Cup semi
The memory of the 1999 World Cup still remains

No sportsman likes to be labelled a 'choker'.

And South African captain Shaun Pollock was quick to deny that their shock Champions Trophy defeat by India on Wednesday was comparable to their 1999 World Cup exit.

Despite his protestations, painful memories of that last ball defeat in the semi-final against Australia three years ago were revived by the capitulation to India.

If anything, the loss against India was an even more staggering example of mental collapse.

From the moment Herschelle Gibbs left the field with heat stroke, South Africa added a miserable 49 runs in 12 overs, and never looked like making the 21 needed off the final six balls of the match.

Jacques Kallis pushes the ball into the covers
Kallis was unable to inspire South Africa

Respected South African cricket journalist Neil Manthorp believes the World Cup semi-final changed the outlook of the players.

"I don't think it was true when Steve Waugh hinted that they were chokers at that time.

"However, the way the players have reacted since then have made it come true," he said.

"Choking is very emotive description.

"It's not that they can't physically perform under pressure, it's that the pressure makes them do something they wouldn't normally do.

"In Wednesday's match, Boeta Dippenaar was out slogging to deep square leg from his second ball despite the fact they still needed about six runs per over."


It's a huge worry ahead of the World Cup
Neil Manthorp, South African cricket journalist

For South Africa now, a domestic season awaits with a total of thirteen one-day internationals against Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Pakistan.

The real test, however, is the World Cup next february, which will take place on South African soil for the first time.

Players like Jonty Rhodes and Allan Donald have extended their careers to play the tournament on home soil, and also in the hope that they can erase those memories of 1999.

Talent-wise South Africa will remain one of the favourites, but their mental approach will be crucial to their hopes.

Graham Ford takes some notes
Ford was perceived to be too soft on the players

Manthorp believes they South Africans should seek guidance from their rugby counterparts, who won their World Cup at home in 1995.

"I don't think they realise just how intense the pressure and expectation will be when they play at home," he adds.

Hope for South Africa comes from their recent change of coach which saw the softly, softly approach of Graham Ford replaced by the more forceful Eric Simons.

It had become apparent to many that the loss of the Hansie Cronje/ Bob Woolmer axis had altered the balance in charge of the team.

With the more diffident Pollock taking command on the field and the pally Ford off it, disciplines were felt to have slipped.

"Eric Simons is a strong man who had a great deal of success that way with Western Province," Manthorp added.

"He has kept a watching brief so far during the Morocco Tournament but this match will be a watershed and bring the whole process forward.

"I think he'll now want to stamp his authority on the whole team."

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
South Africa captain Shaun Pollock
"We've only got ourselves to blame"
12 leading teams do battle in Sri Lanka

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