Wellington: AB de Villiers wants consistency and commitment in South Africa`s final pool match against the United Arab Emirates on Thursday, aware the Proteas` stop-start form cannot continue as the tournament`s knockout phase looms.
At their best, de Villiers` men have looked like world beaters, becoming the first team in history to post successive one-day international totals of 400-plus in Pool B wins over the West Indies and Ireland.
But they have also been skittled out for 177 and 202 in losses to India and Pakistan respectively, reviving memories of the hated “chokers” tag that has haunted previous World Cup campaigns.
The Proteas were many pundits` tip to lift a maiden World Cup this year but their inconsistency means bookmakers are now ranking them behind co-hosts Australia and New Zealand.
With a quarter-final against a dangerous Sri Lanka appearing likely, the UAE match presents a final chance for some South African fine-tuning.
It also has the potential to provide crucial practice for seamer Vernon Philander, who has missed the past three games with a hamstring injury.
De Villiers was at a loss to explain the Pakistan defeat and said he wanted to see an improvement against the UAE.
“Nothing was really happening at 100 percent,” de Villiers said after the 29-run loss. “It was almost like a car that`s been stuck in second or third gear.
“That`s not going to win you cricket games, especially not under pressure and in big tournament`s like this. So we need to have a chat about what maybe went wrong… and try to get to fifth gear again against the UAE.”
Victory against the UAE would most likely see South Africa finish second in Pool B behind India, setting up a last eight showdown with Sri Lanka.
The amateurs of the UAE, many of them Pakistani expatriates, are winless so far in the tournament and should not present a hurdle if South Africa are anywhere near their best.
The teams have met only once before, when South Africa posted a 169-run win at the 1996 World Cup.
UAE`s best performance so far at this year`s tournament was a gutsy two-wicket loss to fellow non-Test nation Ireland and captain Mohammed Tauqir admitted he was wary of South Africa`s batting power.
Tauqir said there would be no shame in conceding 400-plus runs to a line-up that includes the likes of de Villiers, Hashim Amla and Faf du Plessis, who are all in the top 10 run-scorers at the tournament.
Asked about his strategy to stop a South Africa run-fest, he quipped: “It seems the only way they cannot score 400 runs is (we) win the toss and bat.”
“The way they are going, they`re scoring 400 runs against West Indies and Ireland. I think we need to bowl well, need to field well to restrict them.
“Now even considering 400 is not an embarrassing total, you know. So, yeah. We will be putting in a lot of effort against South Africa.”