SYDNEY, March 17 (PTI): Keen to shrug-off the chokers tag, AB de Villiers-led South Africa will look to achieve a first by winning a knockout match at the World Cup when they lock horns with Sri Lanka in the high-voltage first quarterfinal clash at the Sydney Cricket Ground, here tomorrow.
It was in 1992 that Proteas� ill-fated knockout exits started following the Kepler Wessels-led side�s loss against England after it was left to chase 21 runs off the final ball post a Duckworth/Lewis rain rule that came into effect, ironically at the SCG.
The series of near-misses continued for the woeful South African side and its semi-final exit in 1999 probably was the most painful after Australia edged them out on net run-rate in a tied game.
The current side will also try to forget the 2003 World Cup finish on home soil when a failure to correctly interpret the Duckworth/Lewis rain rule meant they bowed out at the group stage after a dramatic tie with Sri Lanka in Durban.
In 2011, they suffered a surprise quarter-final defeat to New Zealand.
But tomorrow is another day and de Villiers will be looking to turn over a new page in the South African cricket calendar with a well-balanced side at his disposal.
�All I can say is we�re not going to choke tomorrow. We�re going to play a good game of cricket and come out on top. Simple,� he told reporters at the SCG today.
�How do we approach it? We think we�ve just got to try and play a good game of cricket,� said the in-form batsman, who scored a stunning 162 not out against the West Indies in the pool stage at this very venue.
If the batting boasts of Hashim Amla and de Villiers then the bowling rides high on the brilliance of pace spearhead Dale Steyn.
But can they demonstrate their undeniable talent in the knockouts is a question that is bothering many a Proteas fan.
Sri Lanka on the other hand have a fine record in knockout matches. The reigning World T20 champions also appeared in the last two World Cup finals and won the tournament back in 1996.
The Angelo Mathews-led side also looks to possess the necessary arsenal to go all the way in this edition.
Tournaments leading run-scorer Kumar Sangakkara (496 runs in 6 games), who has hit record four consecutive ODI tons coming into the match, is enough to invoke fear in any bowling line-up.
Opener Tilakaratne Dilshan has also been a force to reckon with two centuries in this tournament and the bowling always looks good with the ever-dependable Lasith Malinga leading the charge.
Mathews is also banking on home support at the SCG.
�If you play at the MCG (Melbourne Cricket Ground) or SCG it�s like playing at home,� Mathews said in the pre-match presser.
�Most of the Sri Lankans across Australia or across the world, they fly into Sydney with immense support for us, and we really enjoy playing in Sydney. We�ve been getting tremendous support wherever we played.�
With many pundits hyping the contest as a de Villiers and Sangakkara clash, the Proteas captain brushes it aside and believes the game is above individuals.
�To be very honest, and I hope you don�t take it the wrong way, I couldn�t care less about him or me. I just want to win the game of cricket tomorrow,� said the 31-year-old.
�If it�s our No. 11 batsman tomorrow who wins the game for us, so be it. I just want to find a way to win.�
Even Sri Lankan spin legend Muttiah Muralitharan has told the islanders to not obsess with de Villiers presence.
�I have two messages � win the toss and do not get too hung up thinking about AB de Villiers,� Murali wrote in latest ICC column.
For the record the last 16 ODIs between the two teams have produced eight wins apiece and seven of the last eight 50-over clashes between them have been won by the side batting first.