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20 Mar 2007 07:40
South Africa captain Graeme Smith insists he won’t be rattled by the Australian verbal barrage which will surely come his way when the two bitter rivals meet on Saturday.
The winner of the World Cup Group A game at Warner Park will not only take a vital two extra points into the Super Eights but also a huge psychological edge over a fellow favourite for the title.
Smith was targeted by the Australians when South Africa toured in 2005 and 2006 and he paid a heavy price.
His side lost the Test series 2-0 while he managed just 155 runs in six Test innings and 166 runs in his eight one-day innings.
“The Australia game is on everyone’s mind, it is the big one everyone is looking forward to,” said Smith who is adamant that he is a more relaxed player now than he was on that tour.
“I’m a lot more experienced and comfortable with things. I went through a bad patch and I think once you go through a bad patch and get out of it you don’t put as much pressure on yourself.
“I am a lot more relaxed than I was in Australia.”
Smith disagreed that South Africa, who displaced Australia from the world number one spot last month, were nervous before the clash.
“We are not tense or nervous.
We are just going to go out there and play to the levels we know we’re capable of.”
But he knows the that victory over Ricky Ponting’s two-time defending champions is crucial if South Africa are to go on and win a first World Cup title.
“With one or two big teams perhaps not going through [to the Super Eights], it does put more emphasis on our last group game for us to take those points through,” said the captain.
“If we do well in these next two games then yes, with some of those top teams not going through, that semifinal begins to look a lot closer.”
Smith is not convinced that Australia will treat veteran seamer Shaun Pollock with caution in the game in order to preserve wickets.
“That’s not really the Australian way, to defend people out,” he said.
“If they are thinking that way, then maybe we have one or two positives over them.
Scotland and The Netherlands, who have yet to win any points in Group A, play each other on March 22.
The top two teams will qualify for the next round Super Eight. - AFP
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