RICKY PONTING will not believe South Africa has destroyed its choker tag until the Proteas do the business against Australia when it matters most.
South Africa captain Graeme Smith declared after his team had yesterday dispensed with England in a cut-throat quarter-final and secured a semi-final match against Australia next Wednesday that the Proteas had once and for all proven their big-game temperament.
But Ponting questioned this bold statement - and for good reason.
The Australians, despite some heavy early hitting from Smith and AB de Villiers, crunched the Proteas by 83 runs in their pool group match in St Kitts last month, while the ghosts of previous World Cups linger.
South Africa will be reminded for the next week about its pair of failures against Australia in the 1999 World Cup in England, in particular the famous semi-final at Edgbaston, Birmingham, when a tied result meant Steve Waugh's team advanced to the final because it finished higher on the Super Six table.
That remains one of limited-over cricket's greatest matches, and the Proteas to this day cannot believe they failed to chase down a modest 214 to win after reaching 48 without loss.
Ponting, along with Adam Gilchrist and Glenn McGrath, are the only Australian survivors from that match, and believe that hex will remain until the Proteas dismantle the world champion on cricket's greatest stage.
"It was a big game for them yesterday but not as big as a World Cup semi-final or final," Ponting said.
"We have a great record in those games and we are looking forward to playing them, actually.
"It's a little way off.
"We have a good game to play against New Zealand first, but we are very excited about the prospect of playing South Africa."
Ponting has maintained throughout the tournament that he expected the Proteas to reach the semi-finals, even when they stumbled against Bangladesh.
The teams - at least on paper - will be evenly matched.
Both like to attack at the start of an innings, have plenty of batting depth and have an excellent pace attack.
One advantage in Australia's favour is that Brad Hogg is a frontline spinner, while the Proteas have reluctantly used left-arm finger spinner Robin Petersen just twice.
This could prove crucial on what is expected to be a sluggish pitch in St Lucia.
"They obviously played a great game yesterday," Ponting said.
"By the looks of things they might have got conditions to suit them a little bit with their bowling early on, but their batting was very good.
"They are a dangerous side."
The Proteas have never been known for their boldness, whether it be at the selection table or tinkering with game plans in times of trouble.
But that may have changed after spearhead Makhaya Ntini was dropped for the match against England.
While Ntini (six wickets at 48.83 in seven matches) had struggled all tournament, axing him was a sign of confidence.
"They have lots of depth, that's the one thing about their team," Ponting said.
"Ntini not playing yesterday and the batting depth they have is very deep.
"They have been good rivals of ours. They have played excellent cricket of late against us as well."
South Africa claimed a 3-2 home series win over Australia last year and clinched victory in the final game in Johannesburg when it chased a stunning 435 with one wicket and a ball to spare.