South Africa have two opponents to overcome. It has always been that way. The opponent on the field has often been vanquished. Indeed, over the years, South Africa have always been the team to fear. But that other terrifying opponent has been impossible to overcome. Try as they might, pledge as they do, strain every nerve possible, South Africa always lose to themselves.
And so in Australia, where they made such an emotional entry, and a gut-wrenching exit, in 1992, they have the opportunity to win and to overcome. They arrive with the best top six in limited overs cricket and whether Quentin de Kock plays or RileeRoussow does, the star cast of du Plessis, Duminy, Miller and the incomparables, Amla and de Villiers is unmatched. The bowling might have just come off its peak and they don’t quite have the kind of all-rounders they always did, but it is still a formidable hurdle.
Hashim Amla has been the superstar of understatement. He scores hundreds for fun, hardly ever wipes the sweat off his brow and never, simply never, does anything undignified. I watch him play and I wonder if pressure means anything to him and that is why, to my mind, he is the man to take them to their first World Cup. Around him might be more emotional folk but Amla looks like he has arrived, almost spiritually so.
From a purely cricketing point of view, his extraordinary solidity at the top allows everyone else to play freely and almost inevitably allows the genius of AB de Villiers to express itself. For it is genius. If Amla is the calm, gentle breeze, de Villiers is the tornado and while South Africa have had some wonderful batsmen over the years it is debatable whether they have ever, in limited overs cricket at any rate, had such pedigree at the top.
Duminy will have to provide the balance with the ball as well because that is a slight problem area for South Africa who like the idea of playing seven batsmen and tend to put Behardien in. The ten overs between those two could be an area of vulnerability unless South Africa feels they can go with Wayne Parnell at number 7 and play five bowlers.
Dale Steyn might have come off his peak in terms of pace (unless of course he is saving up for the World Cup) but he remains the best fast bowler in the world. It is arguable that he is a better test bowler but around him Morkel is inconsistent and Philander but steady. Their big plus though is the arrival of Imran Tahir who has surprised a few in world cricket.
With Australia, they are the best constructed team in the world. If they overcome themselves they should fancy their chances.