Pre-tournament there were a few concerns about how well the team would go without A B de Villiers, and if Dale Steyn was truly back to his best. It was enough to push them down to fourth favourites, one spot below their ranking of third. But nobody thought that they would do as badly as this. They had a pretty good squad. Their batting and bowling looked solid. But from the moment that Shakib al Hasan and Mushfiqur Rahim took Bangladesh from losing badly to their highest ever ODI score and shocked 20:1 favourites South Africa by 21 runs, they never looked like making the semi-finals, let alone winning the whole thing, and all of the talk about them yet again being a semi-final loser was a distant memory as so many liars came out claiming that they were never a chance.
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At least they beat Sri Lanka, and Afghanistan too, both by big margins too. They should have beaten Pakistan, but Pakistan were full of momentum and South Africa weren’t. Their losses were all close – aside from the one against England. With just a few tiny changes they could have won every single match. They didn’t have the wrong side. They had the wrong momentum going. Perhaps if they’d played the worst teams first and the best teams last, and played a bit later than they did (they were a game ahead of everyone else, and two games ahead of India) then things might have been different. Not to mention the injuries to Dale Steyn, Lungi Ngidi and Hashim Amla and the fact that A B de Villiers actually was available but wasn’t picked. You couldn’t ask for more things to go wrong. But that’s not their fault. Sometimes the world is against you.
Their loss to Bangladesh wasn’t a problem – it was how they handled it. England had upset losses too – they lost to both Sri Lanka and Pakistan – but they were more positive in their other matches. South Africa weren’t. If South Africa had been more positive, they probably would have beaten New Zealand, certainly would have beaten Pakistan, and might have even beaten India as well. They convinced themselves that they lost to Bangladesh because the 8th best team in the world was better than them, and stopped playing like one of the favourites for the tournament. Everything was negative, and it just went on from there. They didn’t play badly so much as they were negative.
When the world is against you, all you can do is hold on and ride the waves. There really wasn’t anything more that South Africa could have done once everything started to fall apart, but, once things are put back together again, they showed enough to suggest that they can rebuild. At least their bowling was good – except when they were too negative – and they had enough batting to show that they can rebuild. Just the same, this is their worst ever World Cup performance, and it was a long way below what anyone honestly predicted, bad enough that many people rewrote history to pretend that this was predicted.