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'Being knocked out felt worse in 2011'

Peterson runs out Bangladesh's Mohammad Rafique in Bloemfontein Getty Images

Before the 2002 Boxing Day Test, I was told to fly to Durban, but no one told me why. When I got there they said I had been selected in the World Cup squad.

Charl Langeveldt and I were pinching ourselves because we couldn't believe we were part of it. It was a home World Cup, so it was very special, but not everyone could be part of it. Graeme Smith was quite sad because he wasn't in the squad even though he had been playing really well for South Africa at the time.

I saw my place as a reward for how I had done in the domestic competition that season. I was quite young and I did not really know what to expect. But I was really excited. There were also a few older players in the squad, like Jonty Rhodes and Allan Donald. It was going to be their last big thing for South Africa, so they put a lot of effort into trying to win it.

From a tournament perspective, the people of South Africa were so excited - it was a little bit like the football World Cup in 2010. The public really got behind us and we were soaking it in. A World Cup is such a nice opportunity for players to really make their mark - more so than any bilateral or tri-nation series.

It felt to me like going to a Coke week [a South Africa Under-19 cricket festival sponsored by Coca Cola], which I had been part of when younger. It's a place where you really want to impress and do well. Except this was the real thing.

The opening ceremony at Newlands was amazing. They played Mandoza's "Nkalakatha" when we walked out.

Then Herschelle [Gibbs] played a brilliant innings in a game we lost to New Zealand.

Before that game, Jonty was ruled out of the tournament and Graeme was called up. It just showed how unexpected things can happen. The truth was that Graeme probably deserved to make the squad but somehow they just couldn't fit him in. These things have a way of balancing out. Being without Jonty didn't really affect the morale too much. It just gave another South African an opportunity to express himself.

I only played one match, against Bangladesh, and in that game I found myself at slip for the first time for South Africa. We won that game but then we all know what happened against Sri Lanka. It was a freak thing. When the rain came down and the covers came on, I'm pretty sure I was saying we need one more. Okay, that's just a joke.

It was just very sad. I'm sure future South African teams have learnt from that, but if I have to be honest, being knocked out felt a lot worse at the 2011 World Cup. I had a lot more emotional attachment to the team in that World Cup as opposed to the 2003 one. In 2003, I just saw it as a learning experience, but in the 2011 World Cup it just felt like it was too soon for us to go. I'm sure the guys are going to go a little bit further this time.

As told to Firdose Moonda, ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent

This story was first published in 2014