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De Villiers not dwelling on past

AB de Villiers has it in his own hands to keep South African tears at bay at The Oval tomorrow - unlike the last time his country met England in a global semi-final.

Back in March 1992, an eight-year-old de Villiers could only watch on television, thousands of miles away in Pretoria, as his cricketing heroes got the rawest of deals after rain in Sydney.

South Africa returned following a 12-minute interruption to discover, having needed 22 runs from 13 balls, the equation had been revised to 21 from one.

Unsurprisingly, they did not manage it and England instead progressed to face Pakistan in the World Cup final.

More than 20 years on, de Villiers, pictured, will lead his team against England - this time in the last four of the Champions Trophy - attempting to end a sequence of nine successive defeats in the knockout stages of International Cricket Council events.

The Proteas captain still recalls that disappointment he felt as a boy watching England go through in Australia at South Africa's expense in such cruel circumstances.

"I watched that game. It's a long time ago, and it was quite sad actually," said the wicketkeeper-batsman.

"I think I was crying that night - similar to what happened in the 1999 World Cup."

On the second occasion, South Africa fell short again at the semi-final stage, an early and particularly costly source of their reputation for 'choking' at the vital moment, as they turned a winning position into only a tie against Australia at Edgbaston.

They therefore went out again, but tomorrow have the opportunity to book a return to Birmingham to try to put things right in Sunday's final of this competition.

"It's something that doesn't bother us, what happened in the past," added de Villiers.

"We've got a great opportunity to do our country proud. We'll make sure we do the basics well early on and then hope for a big upset in the result."

Try as they might, South Africa have yet to shed the 'chokers' tag - a fact acknowledged by de Villiers, but one he insists he does not worry about.

"We've had two big games - the last two games we played - and we didn't 'choke' there," he said.

"We owned up to it before.

"I believe all teams 'choke' in certain situations. It's just we somehow managed to get that tag behind our names.

"Unless we win this tournament, people will stay say you're chokers, so no matter what happens it's something we've dealt with.

"I think we're very comfortable with it in the team."

There is a little more unease, it seems, about the availability tomorrow of South Africa's pace spearhead Dale Steyn.

The world's number one fast bowler returned from a side strain to help South Africa qualify in a tied match against West Indies four days ago, but took little part in today's practice session.

"He's got a few niggles around, which is very worrying, but we're going to do all we can to get him on the park tomorrow," said skipper.

"He's close to 100 per cent. We didn't want to run him too much today, because we know he's one of the best in the world and he's got the skill to just rock up and do the business.

"We're just making sure that he gets that extra day of rest.

"We're confident we can beat England without Dale."

If so, the prize for South Africa will be unchartered territory in an ICC 50-over event since their success in the first Champions Trophy in 1998.

De Villiers said: "We're humbled by the fact that we made it to the knockout stage and into the semi-finals, because it's an opportunity to make our country proud - and we're going to take full advantage of it.

"I think all the pressure is on England. If things go our way, we'll end up on top."

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