One of the pre-tournament favourites, South Africa moved into second place in Pool B behind leading India with a 146-run win over the United Arab Emirates on Thursday at Wellington, New Zealand.
Captain AB de Villiers led the way with 99 runs as South Africa posted a total of 341 for six. He also took two wickets as the UAE was bowled out for 195 runs in 47.3 overs in reply.
The South Africans have had a mixed bag of results at the tournament, opening with a 62-run win over Zimbabwe on Feb. 15 and twice posting 400-plus totals to beat the West Indies and Ireland. But they also lost to defending champion India by 130 runs and to 1992 winner Pakistan by 29.
"It's never a given that you will make the quarterfinal, so a big moment for us," de Villiers said. "We are representing our country in a knockout match in a World Cup."
De Villiers will be well aware that South Africa has never won a knockout game at the Cricket World Cup.
There are two matches Friday as the 42-game preliminary round moves into its final three days. First-place New Zealand plays Bangladesh in a Pool A match involving teams heading for the quarterfinals, while England and Afghanistan, each with just one win in five matches, are playing for fifth place and will head home after the match.
England is back in action four days after a loss to Bangladesh ended its hopes of reaching the final eight. Heavy losses to Australia, New Zealand and Sri Lanka were followed by Monday's 15-run defeat to the Bangladeshis in Adelaide, sparking heavy criticism from former players and the media.
"We want to get back on the horse quite quickly and try and put in a performance that rectifies what we did the other night," England paceman Chris Jordan said. "That's the only way to deal with it. Everyone is gutted, for the fans that came out here and gutted for the fans home watching, and Friday is an opportunity to put that right."
At Hamilton, New Zealand, rain on Thursday complicated New Zealand's and Bangladesh's efforts to complete their match preparations, while injuries forced them to delay the announcement of their lineups.
Bangladesh trained outdoors in drizzle during the morning, although it was forced to cut a net session short and was without captain Mashrafe Mortaza, who has a sore throat.
New Zealand was forced indoors in heavier afternoon rain and delayed a team announcement until match day to further test the fitness of fast bowler Adam Milne. Milne sustained a bruised shoulder in New Zealand's win over Afghanistan and, according to captain Brendon McCullum, was still "stiff and sore" on Thursday.
In weekend match, India will play Zimbabwe at Auckland and Australia will taking on Scotland in Hobart on Saturday. On Sunday, the UAE plays the West Indies at Napier, New Zealand, and Ireland takes on Pakistan at Adelaide, South Australia.
Pakistan, Ireland and the West Indies are still in the mix for the last two quarterfinal spots from Pool B. New Zealand, Sri Lanka, Australia and Bangladesh have qualified from Pool A.
The quarterfinals begin next Wednesday in Sydney, followed on consecutive nights at Melbourne, Adelaide and Wellington
The semifinals are set for March 24 at Auckland and March 26 at Sydney, with the final on March 29 at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.