South Africa have started almost every single World Cup as one of the favorites since their re-entry to world cricket, but the trophy has eluded them each time. In the eight World Cups that they have participated, they have been knocked out in the semifinals four times and in the quarter-finals twice.
The group-stage exit in the ongoing World Cup is only the second instance they have crashed out of the first round. The other instance was when they misinterpreted the Duckworth-Lewis score in 2003 against Sri Lanka on home soil.
Every time there was pressure, the Proteas crumbled. The fact that they are yet to win a knockout game in World Cups has earned them the tag of 'chokers'. However, now for the first time they have avoided that tag - and in a way they would not have wanted to.
Languishing at ninth spot with just a single win (against the bottom-placed Afghanistan) from seven games, South Africa are having their worst World Cup till date. With games against Sri Lanka and Australia left, the chances of the Proteas adding any more points to their tally look slim.
So what exactly went wrong for the side which had in-form players and a well-balanced squad at the start of the tournament? Here is a detailed analysis:
The Proteas had to deal with a setback even before the tournament started. Anrich Nortje, touted to be a surprise package, was ruled out, and Chris Morris was named as the replacement.
Dale Steyn, the pace spearhead for the Proteas for more than a decade now, had returned to the squad after facing recurring injuries in the previous three years. However, a shoulder injury forced him to skip the first game against England and by the third game, he was ruled out of the tournament.
Lungi Ngidi too got injured during the match against Bangladesh and was ruled out for a few games. South Africa faced India with three of their first choice pacers down with injury. As a result, Kagiso Rabada did not get much support in some crucial games and they ended up on the losing side.
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2. Blunt pace attack
South Africa, often known for their aggressive pace bowling, have been toothless in that department this World Cup. The pacers have picked up just 30 wickets from 7 games, with Chris Morris having the best stats among all with 9 wickets and an average of 25.
Kagiso Rabada, who was in terrific form during the IPL, has not been able to replicate his wicket-taking form in the World Cup.
Andile Phehlukwayo has been reasonable and Lungi Ngidi has been expensive whilst being amongst wickets. But none of them has looked like someone that the captain can rely on in crunch situations, like Mitchell Starc and Jasprit Bumrah for Australia and India respectively.
The pace attack has lacked penetration and has also gifted easy runs to opposition teams. The inability to pick wickets has been a major factor in their disastrous campaign.
3. Spineless batting
The absence of AB de Villiers is haunting the Proteas; the line-up has looked spineless and the batsmen have failed to put up a decent challenge. The newcomer Rassie van der Dussen has been the only positive for the side, while the other youngster Aiden Markram has been a complete disappointment.
The experienced duo of Quinton de Kock and Hashim Amla has been terrible, with Amla continuing his poor form and De Kock not being able to convert starts. Amla averages below 25 and De Kock has an average of 39, which is boosted by a 68 against Afghanistan.
Faf du Plessis has shown some fight but has not got enough support from others. Like De Kock, the skipper has also been guilty of throwing away starts.
David Miller has not crossed the 40-run mark in his 4 innings and JP Duminy was dropped after three games, averaging just above 18. De Kock's 68 against Afghanistan is the highest from any South African player in this World Cup and and there have been only 7 fifties scored by them so far, which is abysmally low as compared to other teams.
The failure of the whole batting unit has been the biggest let-down for the Proteas.
South Africa never really turned up for the World Cup, as is evident from the lack of fighting spirit that they are known for. The quality of cricket they are playing is way below what they are capable of, and the fans would hope they recover from this soon.