Rhodes recalls brave Klusener's heroic World Cup performance
Klusener produced some of the hardest hitting seen in the history of one-day cricket when amassing a total of 281 runs at an imposing average of 140.50 during the seventh edition of the 50-over showcase at the end of last century that almost single-handedly took the Proteas to a first World Cup title.
South Africa were denied a maiden appearance in a World Cup final when they fell agonisingly close in a thrilling semi-final to Australia at Edgbaston, with the Proteas denied by a legendary performance from champion spinner Shane Warne and a memorable run out of Allan Donald in the final over of a tied match.
While many players have exceeded Klusener's run total in more recent editions of the World Cup - not many have done so like what the powerful left-hander did when batting predominantly at No.7, No.8 and No.9 - and Rhodes thinks his efforts still stand the test of time.
"He (Klusener) single handedly almost got us to the final," Rhodes recalled recently.
"We tied the semi-final against Australia at Edgbaston and Lance Klusener was undefeated (not out), but his entire tournament was pretty much undefeated.
"The consistency he showed and the power...he was winning games for us from very tough situations.
"If you always saw his face he was unflapped and he never seemed to succumb to the anxiety of the moment."
Rhodes revealed Klusener and Donald received some grief from fans upon returning to South Africa following the World Cup in 1999, but said much of the blame for not progressing through to the final laid with the performance of the batters - himself included.
The Proteas were cruising at 145/4 with Rhodes at the crease alongside star all-rounder Jacques Kallis in pursuit of Australia's modest total of 213, but lost their last six wickets in quick succession to hand their opponents an unlikely place in the title decider.
"The bravery for me was going back to South Africa and seeing how Allan Donald and Lance Klusener stood up," Rhodes said.
"Obviously there was some criticism, but a lot of the criticism needed to be handled by the batters like myself and Jacques Kallis who were batting and we could have taken the game on and finished it."
Bravery is one of the nine 'Navarasa' emotions linked with the 2023 edition of the World Cup and Rhodes said Klusener and Donald's reaction on missing out on reaching the final 24 years ago fits this perfectly.
"Allan Donald and Lance Klusener responded to that (criticism) and took it in good stead and there were a couple of television adverts that were tongue in cheek with the two of them together,” Rhodes added.
"That for me was real bravery as it was an opportunity to go through to our first World Cup final and there was a lot of criticism over that last batting pair.
"As a team we stood by them as we knew our roles in that. The bravery that those two, who were still playing. then had to go on and keep playing for South Africa.
"It wasn’t just a moment of bravery, it was sort of a unit of power as the two of them stood together and had the support of virtually the entire country."