Proteas intent on not returning home as 'losers'

AB de Villiers says SA expects a lot from its sports people and they’re expected to win the tournament.

South African bowler Dale Steyn and captain AB de Villiers react after taking the wicket of Australian batsman Nathan Coulter-Nile during the second one-day international (ODI) cricket match of the series between Australia and South Africa in Perth on November 16, 2014. Picture: AFP

WELLINGTON - Being told not to return home as "losers" by their country's sports minister merely reflects the passionate desire of all South Africans for a maiden World Cup triumph, captain AB de Villiers said on Saturday.

Fikile Mbalula created a stir earlier this week when he said at the team's official departure that South Africa did not want them to be at the World Cup "to add numbers and just become a bunch of losers".

"Look, our country of South Africa expect a lot from our sports people, and we're expected to come here and win the tournament," de Villiers said at a pre-World Cup media conference in Christchurch.

"We understand that, and obviously there's pressure that comes with comments like that, but we don't mind that. We're here to win.

"Obviously, we all looked at each other, and we're like, 'ooh, here we go'. But in saying that, we understand the kind of pressure that's on us and we want to take the trophy back home."

The pressure on Proteas has grown with each global showpiece since their first in 1992 and their failure to land a title has earned them the tag of 'chokers'.

That stemmed from the semi-final at the 1999 World Cup when Herschelle Gibbs prematurely celebrated a catch and was judged not to have control of the ball, allowing Australia captain Steve Waugh to score 120 not out and win the game for his side.

At the 2003 tournament they hosted, they failed to make it out of their pool after rain affected their final match against Sri Lanka with television footage of a distraught captain Shaun Pollock underlining their despair.

De Villier's side enter the 2015 edition as one of the favourites along with co-hosts Australia but the 30-year-old said he did not place too much stock in those predictions.

"I've never been a big fan of building that up too much," he said. "We've been the favourites before in the tournament. It didn't work out for us.

"Then we went to another tournament. We weren't the favourites, didn't work out for us.

"I'm not really sure if it's a title that deserves a lot of time and a lot of talking about, but look, obviously the Aussies are the number one in the world at the moment in the shorter format.

"But we're certainly one of the favourites. There's no hiding from that fact."