Proteas too 'macho' to handle pressure?

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

Cape Town - World-renowned physical and mental conditioning expert, Paddy Upton, has an interesting take on where the Proteas are going wrong.

Now 48, Upton has had two previous stints with the Proteas as first a fitness trainer and then as a Performance Director during the Gary Kirsten era. 

During his time with the Proteas under Kirsten, Upton confirmed that the approach was to acknowledge the 'choker' label associated with the side at that time. 

He viewed it as important to acknowledge that performing under high-pressure situations could be daunting, and that once the players acknowledged that they could move forward. 

In an exclusive interview with News24 Video, Upton said he wondered how much a failure to do this impacted the Proteas in England:

"It's difficult to say what happened now in terms of the recent ICC tournament," said Upton.

"Our approach (with Kirsten) was really to address that concept of 'choker' ... to really open up that wound to try and clean it out.

"We tried to take the real 'face your fears' approach and be really honest and authentic about it.

"The players who are more comfortable to be open and honest and vulnerable ... I think they found some relief in that."

"It very much is a South African male thing where we like to be tough. 'Cowboys don't cry' and don't show vulnerability and weaknesses, which I think is completely inauthentic.

"I think it puts more pressure than anything else and I wonder to what degree that happened at this last Champions Trophy where players go out there and try put on their smiley-face masks and tough-guy masks to say 'we're fine and we don't choke'.

"But the reality is, that outside of an out-and-out psychopath, I have not met an international or professional athlete in any sport that doesn't have vulnerability, insecurity, doubt, negative thoughts or a lack of confidence at some period in time.

"I've met very few who actually own that and are honest about it ... the majority of them, which is also the majority of three South African cricket team, try and cover it up and pretend that those things don't exist.

"I think the energy of trying to cover up that insecurity or doubt just takes up more mental energy as opposed to facing it and just being real."

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