KOLKATA, India, March 15 – South Africa will be wary of Ireland's fighting spirit when they seek to nail down a World Cup quarter-final place on Tuesday.Ireland have been the most impressive of the non-Test nations, pulling off a shock win over England and testing favourites India and the West Indies before losing.
South Africa, with six points from four games, will be assured of a place in the last eight with a victory while Ireland, with two points from four matches, only have a slim chance of qualifying.
The momentum is currently with South Africa who bounced back strongly to defeat India by three wickets in a tense finish in Nagpur on Saturday after losing a close match to England.
"Saturday’s win is a massive step forward in the self-belief department for us and we can play with a bit more freedom," South Africa captain Graeme Smith wrote in his column in an Indian newspaper on Monday.
"That doesn’t mean we think we can just walk in and knock Ireland over on Tuesday. Many of the guys in Ireland have played county cricket. As a team they have got good cricket sense, can be dangerous and have to be taken seriously."
South Africa have shown they have depth in both bowling and batting. Their spinners, Imran Tahir, Robin Peterson and Johan Botha, were superbly backed by pacemen Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel in previous games.
The Pakistan-born leg-spinner Tahir, with 11 wickets in three matches, missed the last game due to a fractured left thumb and South Africa have to decide whether to play him against Ireland.
South Africa’s batting looked solid against India, especially after Jacques Kallis’s return to form with a 69 in Nagpur after contributing just 21 in the first three matches.
"We know South Africa are one of the favourites to win this World Cup. Hopefully, they will relax a bit (after India’s match) and give us a chance," said Ireland all-rounder Andre Botha.
"Maybe they will have a couple of hangovers. We know we have to win the last two games and we are not going to back out. Everyone’s up for the challenge."
Ireland not only made India battle for victory with their gritty display, but also gave a scare or two to the West Indies before losing by 44 runs inn Mohali.
"It’s not just the West Indies game, we were in with a chance even against Bangladesh and India, but failed to get over the line," said Botha.
Ireland are sweating over the fitness of in-form paceman Trent Johnston who suffered a knee injury against India.
Johnston, who missed the last match, is his team’s second-highest wicket-taker with six in three games.