South Africa captain AB de Villiers has said his side had prepared for a show of strength against Sri Lanka in their quarter-final in Sydney, which they won comprehensively by nine wickets. He emphasised on the belief the players had in each other and the confidence they were carrying into the game.
"We committed to the fact that we're not going to show any weakness," de Villiers said. "In knockout games things don't always go your way. But we know that in any game actually. You can't dominate cricket games for 100 overs. It never happens. You've got to take a couple of shots on the chin and the way you take it is really important, not to show any weakness to the opposition.
"I think everyone committed to that really well, and just the belief, and to know that the guy next to you will go to war with you. I think we felt that walking onto the field today, and when we sang the anthem we felt really proud, could feel the way the boys shook each other's hands that we were ready to play some really good cricket. I think little things play a big role in you getting ready for big games like this, just really believing in each other."
De Villiers praised Morne Morkel for taking ownership of the bowling department along with Dale Steyn. Morkel is South Africa's second-highest wicket-taker in the tournament with 14 wickets, one short of Imran Tahir's tally. His economy rate of 4.05 is also the lowest for any South African who has played more than three games this World Cup. On Wednesday, when de Villiers handed him the ball for a fresh spell in the batting Powerplay, he dismissed Kumar Sangakkara with his second delivery to quell any late resistance.
"The fact that he was part of the Kolkata [Knight Riders] team winning that [IPL] trophy not long ago played a big part in his personal career," de Villiers said. "You could just see a lot of belief in his eyes. He talks with confidence, a lot of confidence, and he's taken up a lot of responsibility in the bowling unit. It's not only Dale as the leader, it's him, as well. He's definitely one of our leaders and our captains in the bowling unit.
"He's bolstered up his performance, but it's not just about that. He walks the talk. He's very confident, and I don't think you've always seen that in his career. So the fact that he's lifted a trophy I think with Calcutta in the IPL maybe played a big part in him really believing that he actually can play a big role in teams winning Cups. He's playing a huge role in the bowling team believing that they can run through sides."
A major worry for South Africa coming into this game was Quinton de Kock's prolonged poor run of scores: he had aggregated 53 runs from six innings before the quarter-final. With South Africa requiring only 134, de Kock, by smashing an unbeaten 78 off 57 balls, ensured that most of his team-mates weren't required to exert themselves with the bat. Earlier in the day, he had also taken a stunning one-handed catch diving to his left to send back Kusal Perera.
De Villiers credited the selectors for persisting with de Kock despite the obvious temptation to drop him. "We all go through patches like he did in this tournament," he said. "We've all been in dark spaces, and I think he has been in this tournament. A lot of credit to the selectors, to the coach, the guys who kept backing him.
"I think they must have been tempted a few times to let him go and maybe for me to take the gloves, but it was a great call from them to stick with him. He had a fantastic game, took a couple of crucial catches. You know what can happen when you let catches go down. It can turn a game upside down, and he hung onto them today, and the way he batted with confidence was amazing.
"At that age to go through a patch like he has been going through, to come out there in quarter-finals of the World Cup with confidence shows what kind of player he is and what he can achieve in his career, and I'm looking forward to the next few games to see him up the order again."
De Villiers was mindful, however, that the backslapping could wait, as South Africa still had some distance to cover in the competition. He acknowledged they had won only the first knockout game of the tournament and there were more hurdles to go.
"I think we liked being called chokers, so we'll just keep that tag and move along as long and keep winning.
"It's a great achievement from a team that, like I said before, we came here to win the World Cup. Our next hurdle is the semi-finals and we'll try to find a way to get over that hurdle. Look, we still have hopefully two games to go. We haven't won the World Cup yet.
"A big part of sport is about confidence and the way you believe in your ability, and I truly believe that we feel really strong as a unit and confident going into the semi-finals. In the other side, or in other breath, it means absolutely nothing. You're going to have to start over again, and the hard work starts now.
"Look, we didn't come all this way to say that we made it to a semi-finals of a World Cup. We want to go all the way as a team, and we believe we have the right group here to achieve that.