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Last Updated:  Wednesday, 12 February, 2003, 19:54 GMT

Hosts enjoy taste of laager
By Martin Gough
BBC Sport in Potchefstroom

Victory over Kenya in Potchefstroom was a formality, but for the South African side the match was still a major step in their quest to win the World Cup for the first time.

A three-day trip to the North West province town provided the home side with an opportunity for what the majority Afrikaans crowd would call laager.

South Africa fans display a cheeky anti-Australian banner in Potchefstroom.
The South African players relished the relaxed atmosphere
The word's routes come from the pioneer era, translating as the siege mentality gained from circling wagons.

"Potch" may be just 100km west of Johannesburg but it is a million miles away from the pressure that Shaun Pollock's men are regularly under.

The year-old brick pavilion and wooden chalets in front of which South Africa completed a 10-wicket win could not have contrasted more with the imposing stands and hospitality boxes of the opening match in Cape Town.

And, although Sunday's three-run defeat to West Indies was an upset for the home side, this three-day trip to the sticks could not have been better scheduled.

They were the centre of attention for a week leading up to the opening ceremony at Newlands.

As well as having the expectations of millions of fans, who expect them to become the first home side to win the tournament, there were aloo demands from media and sponsors to fulfil.

But in Potchefstroom they could get back to concentrating on their cricket.

A female fan was so excited at having spotted the team in a restaurant in the town on the eve of the match that she phoned a local radio station.

But she was unable to reveal their exact location - the 15-man squad had sworn her to secrecy in exchange for autographs.

We've been able to just put our feet up and concentrate on the cricket
South Africa captain Shaun Pollock

Pollock said the spell out of the spotlight had been very important to the side.

"In Cape Town we had a tough week, there was a lot going on, constant functions to attend," he explained.

"But here there's not much on so we've been able to just put our feet up and concentrate on the cricket."

Potchefstroom may be a town with a minimal social calendar but the North West Stadium is no village cricket ground.

Built with this tournament in mind it boasts excellent facilities for training, leading Alan Border to recommend that Australia base themselves here for their warm-up matches.

"It has really come on as a ground - the square has always been good and the nets are better than before," said Pollock.

Sunday sees South Africa back under pressure against New Zealand at Johannesburg's Wanderers ground - known as the Bullring because of its intimidating atmosphere.

But there will be a further opportunity to take a step back in a fortnight's time when they travel to East London to take on Canada.

There will be much bigger challenges ahead if South Africa are to lift the trophy at the Wanderers on 23 March.

But the occasional opportunity for laager may just stand them in good stead.





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