Springboks and Australian cricket carry the same World Cup-winning mentality
It has been two months of separating the champions from the pretenders in both the Cricket World Cup and the Rugby World Cup.
South Africa’s Springboks and Australia’s cricket team both have an incredible penchant for winning World Cups.
On 28 October, the Springboks became the first team in history to win four Rugby World Cups after beating arch-rivals New Zealand’s All Blacks 12-11.
A week ago, Australia became cricket world champions for an unprecedented sixth time. To put their distinction from the rest of the crop into perspective, the next best sides have two titles each — West Indies and India.
Of the past seven Cricket World Cup campaigns, the Aussies have clinched five. It’s utter dominance.
But the Aussies didn’t enter this tournament as favourites. They lost their opening two matches to India and South Africa and languished at the bottom of the table during the early stages of the competition.
There were question marks regarding the age of the squad, with only three members of the playing 11 being under 30, as well as their workload, having just completed an Ashes series after winning the World Test Championship.
Their World Cup squad also closely resembled their Test-playing 11 in a time where 50-over cricket has seemingly gone through a fast-paced revolution, epitomised by England’s incredible 2019 World Cup win.
Despite all this, Australia entered the 132,000-capacity Narendra Modi Stadium in Ahmedabad against the hosts on 19 November and left as world champions.
“[Australia] know how to win big games. They have resilience in those moments, they find a way under pressure to nail it down,” former Proteas captain Graeme Smith said.
Seven members of Australia’s World Cup winning squad were part of the team that won the World Cup at home in 2015.
“They know how to do it. They have a number of players who have been there and got the job done,” Smith said.
Similarly, the core of the Springbok team that clinched the Webb Ellis trophy in 2019 was part of Jacques Nienaber’s World Cup-winning team in 2023.
A total of 23 players represented South Africa in both tournaments. It’s a culture of winning among these sides that makes against-the-odds achievements more common.
“[Australia] have a history of breaking those barriers… they’ve done it before,” Smith added.
“I remember, as a Test player, winning in Australia and England for the first time… you break those barriers and things start to flow from there.
“Someone [always] puts their hand up… They controlled a dominant Indian team on a big occasion and they just have a rich history of getting the job done, as we saw with the Springboks as well.”
For the Springboks, it was Handré Pollard who put his hand up, scoring all South Africa’s points in the final and was flawless off the tee throughout the knockout phase of the tournament.
For Australia, it was Travis Head who knocked 137 off 120 balls in the final after smashing 62 off 48 balls and taking two wickets for 21 runs in the semifinal against the Proteas.
The Springboks’ journey to the 2023 title in France was filled with challenges. They faced five of the top six nations in the world, including hosts France in the quarterfinal, narrowly beating them 29-28.
They then went on to beat old foes England 16-15 in the semifinal before their triumphant final over the All Blacks.
The Springboks took the lead in the third minute of the final and never relinquished it. Despite New Zealand coming close several times, it was a match South Africa always seemed in control of.
Similarly, Australia never gave hosts India a sniff in the final of the Cricket World Cup. Between the 10th and the 40th overs of India’s innings they, incredibly, struck only two boundaries.
It was a match that on paper India looked strong favourites to win, having gone through the tournament unbeaten. However, Australia’s relentlessness in the field and immaculate bowling meant that 240 would never be enough against an experienced Aussie batting lineup.
Out of India’s 2011 World Cup winning team, only Virat Kohli – who finished the tournament as the leading run-scorer – remained. But one player, despite their prowess, is not enough to defeat a system built for World Cup success. DM