Cape Town - The Proteas’ decision not to take a sports psychologist to the Cricket World Cup could put extra pressure on the team.
That is the view of Professor Pieter Kruger, Head of the Institute of Psychology & Wellbeing at the North West University.
Over the years, the South Africans have developed a reputation of “chokers” after consistently failing to perform well in important World Cup knockout games.
A lack of a mental coach could also put unnecessary extra pressure on skipper AB de Villiers, according to Kruger.
"Confidence is a function of memory.
"Therefore previous experiences - which we call ‘social heritage’ - could have a major impact on an individual or group’s performances," Kruger said via a media release on Monday.
Even though not every member of the current South African squad has played in a World Cup, Kruger believes the team shares a certain type of bond with teams of the past.
"Ninety percent of the time things normally run smoothly.
"However, things change during that final 10% in the critical moments when the memory of previous failures most likely kicks in."
"Under high pressure situations, the brain’s limbic system activates the ‘stress hormone’ cortisol - which can have a direct negative impact on motor skills.
"It activates the ‘fight or flight response’ which could negatively impact a player’s focus, emotions and execution.
"It is here where ‘choking’ occurs when negative emotions and thought of previous bad experiences start dominating your thoughts.
"Instead of focusing on the ball he need to bowl or hit, a player then rather focuses on what the reaction of coaches, team-mates and fans would be if he should fail," Kruger explained.
Kruger said he was impressed by SA captain De Villiers, but said he would be placed under immense pressure at the upcoming World Cup in Australia and New Zealand.
"AB has a big responsibility to let all 11 players on the field function as a unit.
"You can’t have seven players who are calm when the other four start panicking.
"Especially under pressure, he will have a big responsibility to keep the players focused on the aspects that they can control.
"But what I’ve seen of AB, he looks like someone who gets the best out of his players.
"His role as captain will be critical to the team’s success because he is in charge of executing several communication processes to help the players to focus on their process goals.
"Success in the knockout games will depend on his ability to keep the team calm, but at the same time to also point out where on the field they could improve.
"So long as they forget about the past and exclusively focus on the present, ball by ball, they definitely have the ability to win the tournament.
"But it won’t necessary be the team with the best skills that win the tournament, but rather the team that can best execute their skills under pressure."
*It was on Monday also announced that Kruger would work with the Springboks for the 2015 season.
He has worked with, among others, the Leopards Rugby Union, NWU-Pukke, Brumbies, Harlequins (UK), as well as Chelsea and Arsenal. Most recently he has been a part of Lions management during their 2014 Super Rugby and Currie Cup campaigns.