South Africa skipper Temba Bavuma
South Africa skipper Temba Bavuma Image Credit: REUTERS

New Delhi: South Africa skipper Temba Bavuma admitted Friday that his country's reputation for being World Cup "chokers" will only be shed when they capture an elusive maiden international trophy.

The Proteas have often been undone by the weather as well as losing their nerve at key moments with victory within their clutches.

In 1992, they were handed a rain-revised and mathematically impossible target of 22 runs off one ball to defeat England in the semi-final.

Eleven years later, they misread the rain rules in a tied match with Sri Lanka and exited their own tournament.

At the 1999 event, they conjured defeat from certain victory in a farcical finish in their semi-final with Australia.

In their eight World Cup appearances since returning from the wilderness of the apartheid era, South Africa have made four semi-finals but never the championship match.

"As a South African team, we know we're going to have that chip on our block, or that narrative that we have to get over," said Bavuma.

"That's always going to be there until we win a trophy."

Bavuma admits that he has occasionally used the word "choker".

But his team should be buoyed by being free of the baggage of past self-destruction - seven members of the 15-man squad in India have never played in a World Cup.

That figure includes the 33-year-old Bavuma.

"I think there are guys who believe that it applies to this team, there are guys who don't believe that it applies to this team," he said of the "chokers" tag.

"I think the belief amongst the team, that's the most important bit I bring up to just make sure that we're not kind of skirting around the issue.

"It's that acceptance that it would always be there within the team, within this group, within guys who are to come. Hopefully they don't have to experience that."

The Proteas begin their World Cup against 1996 champions Sri Lanka in New Delhi on Saturday at the Arun Jaitley Stadium where they were bowled out for a paltry 99 on their most recent visit last October.

Bavuma missed the game through illness but said the performance that day illustrates the tricky nature posed by the challenges of playing in India.

"With the World Cup and playing each team once, any team can win on the day, so if you're not there on the day, you can get caught with your pants down," he added.

This World Cup will be the last for star batsman Quinton de Kock after the 30-year-old said in the rest of his career he intends to focus on lucrative Twenty20 franchise cricket.

In his 10-year international career, De Kock has piled up more than 11,000 runs over the three formats with 24 centuries.

"It's becoming tougher and tougher for guys to overlook the opportunity of the lucrativeness of playing in franchise T20 leagues," said Bavuma.

"But for me, it's when you're within the team and you have that opportunity to wear that patch, that you do it with honour, you do it with pride, and you don't take anything for granted."