This Youthful Brigade of Proteaswill Finally Shed the 'Chokers' Tag

Article excerpt

THE scene is all too familiar. It's a World Cup, okay not in name, but for all intents and purposes, and South Africa are one of the tournaments favourites.

It's being held in England and the hosts have already been knocked out. The Proteas are again in the semi-finals, although the one difference is that they are not playing Australia.

Yes, it's exactly 10 years to that fateful day at Edgbaston. And I'm sure I don't need to refresh your memory bank to which match I'm referring to.

While the nature of the defeat was painful enough, the ramifications were even greater. Every Protea to don the green pyjamas throughout the ensuing decade has had to carry the burden of Edgbaston '99.

Rightly or wrongly, the dreaded "chokers" tag has been blazoned across the forehead of every player.

Journalists may be the most cynical of species around anyway, but listening to murmurs in the press box and you would swear that should South Africa be knocked out in the course of the next two rounds, a sigh of "that's what we expected" will collectively be heard.

The class of 2009 under Graeme Smith have, however, limited links to South African teams of the late 1990s to mid-2000s.

There are just three - Mark Boucher, Jacques Kallis and Herschelle Gibbs. - who felt the pain of having to congratulate Steve Waugh when he walked into the inconsolable Proteas' dressingroom.

The rest have been replaced by young, confident and talented individuals who have very limited experience of failure.

Before the home Test series defeat to Australia earlier this year, there were many who had not lost a series in their career to date.

They instead know only of winning in Pakistan, England and Australia, two of three venues Kallis had to wait 10 years before he could smoke the traditional Cuban cigar after a Test series win. …