National pride will be the primary focus when the Proteas take on England in the first semi-final of the ICC Champions Trophy at The Oval on Wednesday. AB de Villiers addressed the media ahead of what is arguably one of his stiffest tests as captain, and lacked no motivation of finally breaking the knock-out hoodoo.
“We are privileged to be in this position,” De Villiers said at his pre-match press conference on Tuesday. “As a team we are humbled by the fact that we made it past two virtual knock-out matches and into the semi-finals. We have an opportunity to make our country proud and we are going to take full advantage of that.”
De Villiers dismissed the Proteas’ lowly ODI record in the UK in recent years, and insisted it was an even contest going into the knock-out encounter.
“Both teams have played really well,” he said. “I don’t think any team goes into the match with an extra advantage. We have won two knock-out games in a row and we definitely take confidence from that. I can’t say it will give us an edge because they will be playing in front of a big home crowd under their home conditions. Its 50-50 and it’s up to the team that rocks up here with the right attitude and can take the momentum early on and run with it.”
The match will be a true test of character and skill for a young, yet impressive ODI unit, and if the class of 2013 passes, it will go a long way in banishing the demons which have plagued South African cricket for many years.
“We have owned up to it before, it is something that has been around for a while,” De Villiers remarked of the choker tag. “I believe all teams choke in certain situations, we just somehow managed to get the tag behind our name. Unless we win the tournament, people will still call us chokers so no matter what happens I think we have dealt with it.
“We are very comfortable with it in the team,” he added. “We know what we are capable of as a team, we are in a very good space and we are not thinking of things like that. It is not something that bothers us at the moment.”