Dubai - Prior to departure for the T20 World Cup national cricket captain Temba Bavuma faced a barrage of bumpers from the media.
There were the routine ones regarding the composition of the squad and the team’s prospects in the unfamiliar conditions of the UAE. However, he also had to attempt to provide an explanation to why the Proteas’ performance at major tournaments does not replicate that of the Springboks at Rugby World Cups.
While the comparison is grossly unfair considering the vastly different nature of the two sports, there is merit in the fact that the Boks get the job done even through a simple and uncomplicated gameplan of ensuring they execute the basics effectively and minimise their mistakes. It may not always be to the purists' liking but it certainly has been effective for the three-times RWC champions.
Contrastingly the Proteas have often been laden with natural talent, ability and skill and even had the neutral purring in appreciation. This, however, has not translated into silverware with the lack of self-belief coming to the fore when it truly matters.
Bavuma, therefore, spoke openly about the Proteas’ admiration for the Boks’ “resilience” and “sense of belief” in getting over the line. He also said he would have a chat with his mate and Bok captain Siya Kolisi.
The details of the call remain unknown, but it certainly seems Bavuma and the Proteas have duplicated the Bok blueprint here in the UAE.
They have not always been at their clinical best, but yet after a couple of nerve-jingling scrappy wins they find themselves on the brink of qualification for the semi-finals.
There is still the small hurdle of a dominant England side to overcome on Saturday in Sharjah, but on the evidence of what has transpired thus far here in the UAE, they have shown they are ready to step up in those defining moments.
“It is exciting because we are finding ways to win, batting or bowling. It doesn't necessarily have to be pretty,” said David Miller.
“It certainly gives us confidence going into a must-win game for us. We have played some really good games where we have been clinical and smooth all the way through, but there have also been some games where we haven't been neither here nor there. It's good to see that we just want to keep growing in all three departments.”
Miller, who is the most experienced member of the Proteas squad here in the UAE having first pulled on the green jumper after the disastrous 2010 T20 World Cup campaign in the Caribbean, believes it’s the camaraderie that the current squad shares is what’s getting them over the line.
“I’ve mentioned it a few times that we’ve had a similar squad the last six/seven months and have built up a really good bond among ourselves. We have a really nice blueprint in terms of what we have been striving to perfect. We are still learning, we're still growing, but what we have shown is really encouraging.
“I think we happened to win one or two close games and the momentum just keeps building. I also think playing the same squad a lot of the time also helps build confidence through each other by playing with each other you understand how each other ticks in high pressure moments.
“You understand what to say to someone how to encourage and how not to and you learn that over time and that has happened over the last six months and hopefully we can keep going with this momentum,” added Miller.
The Boks have a penchant for trouncing the English roses in crunch RWC matches over the years. It’s the Proteas’ turn now.