Sunday 22 April 2007 

South Africa Forgetting Past As Australia Loom Large

South Africa's agonising exit against Australia in the 1999 World Cup would not weigh down the team in their repeat semi-final clash on Wednesday, players from that epic tied game said.

Proteas batsman Herschelle Gibbs, wicketkeeper Mark Boucher and all-rounders Shaun Pollock and Jacques Kallis, members of the 2007 side, were involved in the semis eight years ago which finished in a dramatic tie.

Australia qualified for the final because they beat South Africa in a previous game. Australia went on to beat Pakistan in the final at Lord's.

South Africa again face Australia, who are eyeing an unprecedented hat-trick of back-to-back titles, in the second semi-final in St Lucia on Wednesday, a day after New Zealand play 1996 winners Sri Lanka in Jamaica.

"Irrespective of what past we have against each other (or) records there might be, it comes down to the game on Wednesday," Gibbs told reporters on Saturday.

"Whoever holds their nerve best on that day should come out on top. We've played our best cricket when our backs are against the wall," he said.

Before that memorable semi encounter, Australia's all-important second-round victory in 1999 came after skipper Steve Waugh, dropped by Gibbs while celebrating prematurely, hit a match-winning 120 not out.

RUN CHASE

Gibbs made some amends against Australia last year when he smashed 175 to achieve a world record run chase, scoring 438 in the end, for a thrilling one-wicket win in Johannesburg.

Gibbs said that series-clinching win at Wanderers in 2006 showed South Africa no longer had a mental block against Australia.

"Last year's win proved something to the whole team," he said. But he added: "Saying that it was a freak sort of game.

"It was on that particular day that we outplayed them," he said.

"Hopefully, something similar can happen on Wednesday but this is a bigger stage and obviously to come back and win you need to outplay the opposition."

"We've had some very close encounters," Pollock said. "We've learnt a lot against Australia from the games we've played. I hope our experience will play a part."

Pollock joked a tie would not be enough for Australia this time despite having won the group match between the two teams by 83 runs.

In case the semi-finals or final end in a tie this time, the matches would be decided by a "bowl-out" where players would bowl at open stumps in a sort of penalty shootout.

The senior South African players felt the team had found the right momentum going into the semi-final after defeating England by nine wickets in their must-win last Super Eights match on Tuesday in Bridgetown, Barbados.

© Reuters 2007

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