Choke or no choke, Proteas were a joke

AB de Villiers (Getty)
AB de Villiers (Getty)

Cape Town - Remember that putt Retief Goosen missed on the 72nd hole at the 2001 US Open?

WATCH: Look away now Proteas fans ... most comical run out ever?

It was a two-footer - a shot that he would make 99 times out of 100 - that would have secured victory and his first ever Major title. 

Instead, the then-32-year-old choked and had to come back the next day to beat Mark Brooks in an 18-hole playoff. 

I think of that Goosen miss every time I watch the Proteas play a big match. Regardless of the situation, you just have this lingering feeling that they will find a way to stuff it up. 

There was still a happy ending for Goosen as he eventually got the job done, but there never seems to be one for the Proteas, who continue to crumble when the pressure is on. 

India didn't even have to beat us on Sunday; we beat ourselves

It is an all too familiar sight for South Africans when they watch their side get to the business end of a major cricket tournament, and it would be funny if it wasn't so frustrating. 

They were the No 1 side in the world going into the Champions Trophy, they boasted the No 1 batsman in the world (and the entire top four was ranked in the top 10) as well as the No 1 and No 2 ranked bowlers in the world. 

But, as is always the case, that counted for nothing. 

South Africa's "main man", AB de Villiers, scored a total of 20 runs in the tournament, they butchered their innings against Pakistan and then were even worse against India, giving away three run-outs in an innings that former skipper Kepler Wessels later described as "as bad as it gets". 

Having posted a score of 191 all out, South Africa were going to have to come out guns blazing if they were to stand any chance of pulling off an upset. 

Instead, they were subdued. They were already beaten, and what followed was a Virat Kohli and Shikhar Dhawan partnership that looked more like a light training session than a do-or-die cricket match. 

There is no way that the Proteas should ever be this poor; not with that batting line-up. 

Inexplicably, Imran Tahir had bowled just two overs when India were 151/1. 

The truth, though, is that batting cost South Africa in this competition, not bowling. 

Against Pakistan and India, the top order failed dismally. 

And while neither of those results translates into a "choke" in the true sense of the word, the Proteas displayed their unique ability to freeze when they needed to fly. 

If we had an explanation, then we would be able to prevent it. But nobody has a clue. Why does this keep happening? 

People will come hard at De Villiers. He will be the scapegoat - there always has to be one. JP Duminy is also in for some stick, while coach Russell Domingo is unlikely to be re-appointed as coach beyond the Test series against England. 

But while De Villiers was abysmal at this tournament, it is difficult to believe that a change in leadership will fix this South Africa problem. 

The Proteas have played under some quality skippers - Hansie Cronje, Shaun Pollock and Graeme Smith - and always come up short. 

Yes, there is the 1998 ICC Knockout win, but that is ancient history now. 

As is the case with any problem, the first step is acknowledging that there is in fact a problem.

If Faf du Plessis, David Miller and Duminy running around like headless chickens between the wickets wasn't a clear sign that a fundamental mental weakness still exists in this Proteas side, then I don't know what is. 

More psychologists? Maybe. 

India are a quality side; of that there is no doubt. 

A South African loss was always on the cards, but there is losing and then there is losing the way they did on Sunday. 

It will be hard to pick themselves up from this. A largely insignificant T20 series against England awaits, which the Proteas will probably win. 

And then they'll probably keep winning all the way to the 2019 World Cup, also in England. 

They'll arrive at that tournament in good spirits, in good form and denying that they have a problem with pressure.

And we all know what happens then...

Follow Sport24 journalist @LloydBurnard on Twitter...

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