DHAKA: Outgoing one-day captain Graeme Smith, devastated by South Africa's sudden World Cup exit, has predicted the national team will quickly overcome their latest debacle.
The Proteas collapsed from a winning position to hand New Zealand a dramatic 49-run victory in Friday's quarter-final at the Sher-e-Bangla stadium in the Bangladesh capital.
The Black Caps, restricted to 221-8 after taking first strike, bundled out South Africa for 172 after they were sailing merrily at 108-2 by the 24th over.
South Africa, often regarded as the best team never to have won the World Cup, have now lost in three semi-finals, two quarter-finals and once in the first round.
But Smith, who will stand down as one-day skipper but remain the leader in Test cricket, was confident the team will taste success again.
"This is an exciting period for South African cricket," he said. "We have the players and the talent. Hopefully in future we will go all the way.
"South Africa deserves to win the World Cup."
Friday's defeat lent credence to the widespread belief that South Africa are cricket's biggest chokers, and Smith was at a loss to pinpoint the reason for the failure.
"It is really hard to describe what happened," said Smith, mystified by a World Cup record which shows South Africa having failed to win any knockout game in the tournament since their 1992 debut.
"Your guess is as good as mine. It's been happening since 1992. We just weren't good enough, but we have to take it forward and not get bogged down.
"There will be a new coach and new captain. We are disappointed but nothing I say is going to change that for fans back home."
Smith said his team threw away a great opportunity.
"We had the opportunity to close out the game after we kept them down to 221 and can only blame ourselves," he said. "We let ourselves down, we let our fans down."
South Africa had topped the tough Group B with five wins from six matches in the league, but fell just when the pressure of a knock-out situation came along.
"I can't fault the way we played in the tournament," added Smith. "We trained hard and gave our best.
"We certainly bowled well in this game, but New Zealand squeezed us when the ball became soft. We needed to show composure at that stage. It is difficult to recover on wickets like this."
Jacob Oram was New Zealand's man of the match with four wickets and two catches, while off-spinner Nathan McCullum sealed the Proteas' fate with three for 24 from 10 overs.
New Zealand's innings had revolved around burly left-hander Jesse Ryder, who finally struck World Cup form with a fluent 83.
Ryder, whose best score in six previous innings in the tournament was 38 against Canada, hit eight boundaries.
Ryder put on 114 for the third wicket with Ross Taylor (43) after New Zealand were reduced to 16-2 by the sixth over.
"One must give credit to New Zealand for the way they played," said Smith. "Ryder set up the 200 which I thought was very gettable. But they stuck to the task in the field.
"They certainly deserved to win."