World Cup 2019: South Africa shouldn't be in denial about choking, says Jonty Rhodes

Jonty Rhodes says the Faf du Plessis-led South Africa should not shy away from questions about 'choking'.

Jonty Rhodes says the fact that South Africa is not considered as one of the favourites could work in the team's favour.   -  The Hindu

Jonty Rhodes believes South Africa should not shy away from questions about 'choking' if the side is to overcome its World Cup hoodoo. Rhodes was referring to Proteas coach Ottis Gibson's recent remarks about avoiding the subject. "The decision is we're not going to talk about that," Gibson said last week.

Rhodes felt this was a defeatist attitude. "If you're denying it, if you can't mention it because it's going to make you choke, then you've lost before you've even started," he said here on Saturday. "Just embrace the fact that until South Africa wins a World Cup, everybody is going to call you that (chokers). Even back home in South Africa, people are saying, 'Gee, please don't choke.' If you can't handle that word, you shouldn't be playing a World Cup; you really shouldn't."

Read: Can South Africa shed the chokers tag?

Rhodes was in town to announce a partnership between South African company Evolution Sports Nutrition and Supple Fitness. The 49-year-old felt not being considered one of the favourites would work to South Africa's advantage. "They are flying to a World Cup totally under the radar. No one is expecting them to win. So maybe for the first time, they don't have that pressure of 'Let's not choke'. There's no advantage to not having a player like A.B. de Villiers but it has taken the focus off South Africa," he said.

South Africa’s fast bowlers Dale Steyn, Kagiso Rabada and Lungi Ngidi have all had to deal with injury in the build up to the World Cup. Their form and fitness was a concern, Rhodes admitted. “Ngidi has now basically played his first game since March, which is quite a long layoff. Dale has come back strongly from injury but as he comes back he breaks down again. Rabada has been so successful since he launched himself into international cricket that he hasn't had any rest. It's a worry from a team selection point of view because you could lose two fast bowlers in the same game,” he said.

Rhodes was full of praise, though, for Faf du Plessis’s captaincy. “Faf is the kind of player that likes to lead by example rather than from the front. Some captains do like to take it on and lead the charge. Faf tries to inspire the players around him. He knows he's a limited player – he's not an ABD 360 – but he's really gutsy and that inspires your teammates.”