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Last Updated:  Tuesday, 4 March, 2003, 12:01 GMT

Where did it all go wrong for SA?
By Oliver Brett
In Johannesburg

South African captain Shaun Pollock after losing to Sri Lanka and being knocked out of the World Cup
Pollock rues his team's failings as World Cup hosts
And so it has come to pass. The host nation will no longer be cheering on the "Gods in Green" as one sponsor calls South Africa's distinctly mortal side.

First they lost to West Indies and New Zealand and then they messed up their run-chase in the Durban rain against Sri Lanka.

So is it all down to sheer incompetence? Not entirely. Stage-fright has also played its part.

The bowling was chaotic from the start and apart from the brilliant Herschelle Gibbs the batting was often a bundle of nerves.

A real indicator that they found the pressure a little too much to bear came in their fielding.

They dropped more catches than a village side who have spent too much time in the pub at lunch.

Herschelle Gibbs
Gibbs was one of the few bright spots for South Africa
Without question, the loss of Jonty Rhodes with a hand injury after just two of their six group matches rocked the team.

The irrepressible Rhodes did not simply yap away at backward point and keep the bowlers and fielders' spirits up.

In recent times he had been a beacon of consistency in the middle order, using his vast experience to pace a run chase like Australia's superb Michael Bevan.

The bowling was particularly at fault in those critical losses to the Windies and the Kiwis.

In the first of those matches, the tournament opener, Ramnaresh Sarwan and Ricardo Powell thrashed some utter garbage all over Newlands in the final overs of their innings.

There were four or five bowlers who could have made an impact once Allan Donald had failed in the first match
Kepler Wessels
South African cricket legend

That took the Caribbean men to a total they never deserved given their awful start.

And against New Zealand, Gibbs hit a big century but again South Africa were powerless to defend the total, taking just one Kiwi wicket in far-from-ideal batting conditions.

Former South African captain Kepler Wessels told BBC Sport that although attention will inevitably focus on the bizarre goings-on against Sri Lanka in Durban the mistakes were made in those matches.

"Team selection wasn't too great," he said. "There were four or five bowlers who could have made an impact once Allan Donald had failed in the first match.

"And abandoning spin altogether was a poor move. The Sri Lankans proved the wicket in the Durban suited spinners and generally spinners have done pretty well in this World Cup."

Perhaps most pertinently, however, South Africa lack a proven swing bowler.

They been found wanting because their bowlers do not get the ball to move in the air much, which has proved essential at this World Cup.

South African bowler Allan Donald
Donald's failings reflected those of his team as a whole
Now all the whys and wherefores are over, the question remains as to who South Africans will support in the latter stages of the competition.

Kenya will obviously prove popular but are unlikely to win any more matches, while Wessels feels India and New Zealand will attract support.

One of the few South Africans able to crack something approaching a joke on Tuesday, he added: "I don't think there'll be too many cheering for Australia."

Wounds from their heavy loss in a home-and-away Test series and a one-day competition in Africa last winter clearly have yet to heal - but now South Africa have a set of fresh ones to lick as well.

Links to more South Africa stories


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