De Villiers plays down pressure
AB de Villiers says South Africa’s ’chokers’ tag belongs to a previous generation on the eve of their must-win contest against England.
Although South Africa could still progress beyond Group B if England pull off another Champions Trophy shock, the hosts would be relying upon results going their way.
The Proteas began the tournament as favourites but their opening-match humbling by Sri Lanka leaves them with no room for error.
De Villiers, who guided the Proteas to a five-wicket victory over New Zealand in their second match, said: “I don’t see us as a team of ’chokers’.
“I have never believed in that word. I don’t even know what it means. There have been a lot of changes since the team was labelled as ’chokers’.
“There are guys in the team now who are hungry to succeed. If we lose a game it is obviously because we didn’t play well enough. We will give it our best shot and the best team will win the tournament. That’s hopefully going to be us.”
The South Africans comfortably dispatched England in a similar situation in the 2007 World Cup.
And they are set to be boosted by the return of Herschelle Gibbs, who has 21 one-day international hundreds to his name, for tomorrow’s day-nighter at Centurion.
Gibbs, 35, passed a fitness test on a rib injury at a training session this lunchtime and is set to replace Hashim Amla at the top of the order.
England have good recent form against the South Africans, having defeated them 4-0 in a NatWest Series just 12 months ago.
However, that jolted them into action and they have beaten Australia in series home and away since.
“After that England tour we had a massive discussion about where we went wrong, one-on-ones with each other and really focused on doing the basics,” said De Villiers.
“We have come a long way from there.”
Meanwhile, De Villiers praised Andrew Strauss’ sportsmanship in calling back Sri Lanka batsman Angelo Mathews in Friday night’s win for England over Sri Lanka at The Wanderers - even suggesting it was overly generous.
“It was very nice of him, I thought,” said De Villiers.
“It is a captain’s decision. It was his call on the field and hats off for him, it was good sportsmanship.”