Cape Times


- Keohane is an award-winning sports journalist and the head of sport at Independen­t Media. MARK KEOHANE

PLEASE do not call the Proteas chokers at the 2019 Cricket World Cup. To choke is when there is an expectatio­n of a win, based on form and quality and ranking, and then there is an implosion that gifts the game to inferior opposition.

To also describe the Proteas as chokers is to insult the performanc­es of those opposition players who inspired their undoing in the first three matches at the CWC being played in the UK.

The Proteas, in losing their first three matches at the World Cup, have been choked more than they have ever been in a position to choke.

The Proteas were hammered by England and India. The form guide predicted England and India wins, but not necessaril­y with such crushing comfort. Bangladesh also beat the Proteas more than South Africa ever lost the game.

Bangladesh were always in control when batting first. They set the Proteas a commanding total and their bowlers never allowed South Africa’s batsmen to dictate.

The South Africans were outplayed in all department­s. It has been the story of their three-match six-day World Cup opening week of woe. The Proteas, for all the predictabl­e pre-tournament South African hype and hysteria, sent the weakest squad to ever represent the country at a World Cup tournament and those players, secondary in strength and results when compared to the game’s current best, have performed as a team of pretenders who realistica­lly should never have been considered contenders.

The very public laissez-faire approach of the team leadership has created the illusion that the Proteas players don’t care.

What nonsense.

Of course, the players care. The pre-tournament talk that “win or lose a cricket tournament life goes on” is not to be condemned but understood. Life does go on.

The team’s leadership were trying to defuse the pressure of expectatio­n that has traditiona­lly accompanie­d every Proteas World Cup challenge. Previous expectatio­ns were justified because of the quality of those South African teams. Not this one.

South African sports fans, so starved of internatio­nal success in the past decade when it comes to World Cup tournament­s or big occasions in cricket, rugby and soccer, are misguided in accusation­s of players lacking passion. Quite simply, the failures are because the players lack pedigree.

There is always a sense of optimism within South African sporting fans, delivered in the guise of patriotism, that South Africa should always be a championsh­ip option at every World Cup rugby or cricket tournament. Equally, when Bafana Bafana take on the best of Africa.

In this country it is deemed unpatrioti­c to guard against unrealisti­c expectatio­ns. But this sense of South African World Cup entitlemen­t, based on emotion, has no foundation when assessed against form. The current crop, individual­ly and as a collective, are not good enough to win the World Cup in cricket. Bafana Bafana are not good enough to win the Afcon Cup. Banyana Banyana, ranked 49th in the world, are not good enough to beat three teams, ranked 2nd, 13th and 16th, to advance beyond the first round of the pending women’s World Cup.

And it is debatable, given the Springboks’ results of the last three years, whether the Class of 2019 will be good enough to win the rugby World Cup in Japan later this year.

No player goes on to the world stage to deliberate­ly annoy supporters or to consciousl­y embarrass themselves or to betray the loyalty of their fan base. They lose consistent­ly because they are not good enough to win.

There is no crime in that; the crime is in not recognisin­g the current limitation­s of so many of our national sporting teams.

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