COLOMBO: Power-packed South Africa go into the World Twenty20 starting in Sri Lanka on Tuesday determined not to be ridiculed any more as the perennial chokers of international cricket.
The Proteas, a formidable side in all forms of the game, have not won a major world title since their return from an apartheid-induced ban in 1990, after inexplicably crashing at crucial moments in previous tournaments.
But limited-overs captain AB de Villiers warned rivals in the 12-nation tournament that they will see a new, determined South Africa in action who are capable of going all the way.
“I am going to be very honest with you, and I am going to put it up straight up front -- we have choked in the past and we know about it,” de Villiers told reporters in Colombo.
“We have had some really bad experiences in the past. But I emphasis the word 'past'. We have come with a new look in this team and we have worked hard with our new management team that has given us a lot of energy and new ideas.
“So we will approach this tournament differently and we like to win in pressure situations and we are going to do exactly that. We are prepared and excited to take the field.”
South Africa failed to make the final of the 1999 World Cup in England when they tied with Australia despite needing just one run to win off the last four deliveries.
During the Champions Trophy semi-final against India in Colombo in 2002, South Africa collapsed from a comfortable 192-1 to lose by 10 runs after needing just 70 more from the last 14 overs.
Last year, Graeme Smith's men came through easily in the group stages of the World Cup before losing to New Zealand in the quarter-finals in Dhaka following a dramatic collapse.
South Africa's new team management includes coach Gary Kirsten, who made a name for himself by coaching India to World Cup success last year.
De Villiers believes the World Twenty20 is a wide open tournament where the team that handles pressure better than the others will win.
“There are a lot of favourites, a lot of good teams and plenty of talent around,” said the South African captain.
“When the game is up for the taking, it's up to the 11 guys there to take it away from the opposition. To handle pressure will be important.”
The Proteas, drawn with hosts Sri Lanka and Zimbabwe in Group C of the preliminary league, open their campaign against their African neighbours in Hambantota on Thursday.