AussiesIs there a team that can stop Australia doing a hat-trick of World Cup wins? At the time of writing, they still have to play New Zealand in the Super 8 stage, and that should be a humdinger of a match. Though there is much talk of rivalry between Australia,AussiesIs there a team that can stop Australia doing a hat-trick of World Cup wins? At the time of writing, they still have to play New Zealand in the Super 8 stage, and that should be a humdinger of a match. Though there is much talk of rivalry between Australia and England, the Aussie dominance over England in recent years has been so complete that it is a surprise when England occasionally beat them. So is with South Africa.There are great similarities between Australia and South Africa. They have the same love for sport, the facilities for all sports are top class, the people are competitive and both have a fierce instinct in whichever sport they play against each other. But unlike rugby, the Proteas have never truly stretched the Aussies in cricket.But against their Trans-Tasman neighbour, New Zealand, the rivalry is to be seen to be believed. Somehow, even India-Pakistan encounters pale when one sees the intensity of passion when the Kiwis play the Aussies, especially in New Zealand. And that’s true in any sport. That the Kiwis beat the Australians in all three of the Chappell-Hadlee Trophy games will be rankling the Aussies to no end, and remember, the Kiwis did that by chasing 300-plus scores, which is a remarkable achievement indeed. The Aussies were without Ricky Ponting and Adam Gilchrist, and Brett Lee got injured. So they were without top players and would want to prove that the defeat was the result of that and possibly because they were jaded after the Ashes series and the triseries that followed. Mind you, the Aussies are not for excuses but for results, and they will want to show who is the boss in no uncertain manner.advertisementDespite similarities, South Africa have never stretched Australia in cricket.It is this total dominance over other teams that does bring up the question of whether the Aussies are beatable in this World Cup. True, teams do have the odd bad day, but the Aussies have hardly been stretched in the matches they have played so far. So much so that the likes of Michael Hussey and Brad Hodge have not had to hit the ball in anger so far. The Aussies had to promote Hussey to open the batting against Ireland to give him some time out in the middle, and that’s a chilling thought for the bowlers as the tournament reaches the final week.South Africa claimed the last place for the semi-finals by romping home to a win over a listless England side. That means, barring an unexpected big margin loss by Australia to New Zealand, the Proteas will face the Aussies in the semi-finals. That may not be what they want, but if they catch the Aussies on the wrong foot, just imagine the confidence with which they will enter the finals. Though the Australians beat them quite easily in their group clash, the Proteas will keep rewinding to that astonishing chase of 434, which not only got them the world record for most runs, but also a one day series victory. Where the Proteas might find themselves short is the spin department, where they have nobody of international class.The other anticipated semi-final between New Zealand and Sri Lanka promises to be a much closer one than their Super 8 clash where the Lankans ran out easy winners. Both captains, Stephen Fleming and Mahela Jayawardene, are shrewd operators who know how to extract the maximum from their players. Fleming is in his third consecutive World Cup as captain, and is also in good form with the bat, which makes a huge difference when one is leading the side. Jayawardene, on the other hand, has been in patchy form, but is capable of the sublime innings that can turn the match around. He came in for plenty of flak for resting Chaminda Vaas and Muttiah Muralitharan in their Super 8 clash with Australia, but it was more to do with resting two senior players than a tactical ploy. Australia won that game easily. Some of the gloss was taken out of the win through the absence of Vaas and Murali.The one-day game does not allow too much scope for tactical moves, but captains have been using their spinners in a clever way. The ‘Powerplay’ also has been used intelligently, though Brian Lara got it horribly wrong against South Africa when he took the final one in the 44th over of their innings.As the tournament enters its final phase, tactics will count, but not as much as temperament and fitness. That is what invariably separates the men from the boys.advertisementFormer India captain Sunil Gavaskar will be writing an exclusive column for all through the World Cup.