They are perhaps the unluckiest team to have played the game. Most of the legends of their team missed out on representing their national team due to the unfortunate ban they faced due to the apartheid practice in their country. They missed a good 3 to 4 decades due to the ban. Greats like Barry Richards and others quenched their thirst for the game by playing county cricket and Kerry packer’s World Series cricket. But few others played for other countries too like kepler wessels who represented the Australian national side, he later went on to captain the South African side when the ban on them was lifted.
Since the ban was lifted there was no looking back for the side, as they went on to become one of the most consistent sides. After the initial stages of their return to international cricket Hansie Cronje took up the captaincy and along with coach Bob Woolmer transformed the side into world beaters with players like Allan Donald, Shaun Pollock, Jonty Rhodes, Jacques Kallis and Hansie Cronje himself they were the most enviable side of that era.
They always were a fighting side. The toughest of times for them came when the match fixing scandal broke out and Hansie Cronje was found guilty and was reprimanded. Shaun Pollock was handed over the captaincy. And they won the series which immediately followed this episode against a strong Australian side, which pays ample testimony to the fact that they had a steely resolve, the team as a whole.
Apart from having a strong bowling attack and excellent batsmen, South Africa were always an outstanding fielding unit. Jonty Rhodes in particular is touted as the best fielder till date. Along with him was Herschelle Gibbs who is no less electric than Jonty himself. And the legacy was passed on as South African sides have always produced good fielders.
Luck has been a factor which has always deserted the South African cricket team. Be it the 1992 world cup semi final when chasing a moderate English total they were well placed when the rain came and the rain rule which was allied meant that they had to score 22 runs off a ball. Again in the 1999 semi final against Australia, they had to face a heart breaking tie and an exit from the world cup.
The only big success for them came in the form of the inaugural knockout cup (now champion’s trophy) at Dhaka in 1998. But things were not as easy as it was for South Africa earlier. The home world cup in 2003 was a big disappointment for them as hey failed to get through the group stages. Pollock resigned the captaincy and Graeme smith who was only 22 at that stage was made the captain. After initial tough times smith proved that he was a born leader as he made the team into what it was earlier, real fighters. They still remain the only team to pose any threat to the dominance of Australia.