After watching de Villiers, the leading batsman in the one-day format, score an unbeaten 162 in a total of 408 for five in last Friday's 257-run win over West Indies, No. 2-ranked Hashim Amla helped himself to his 20th career ODI hundred on Tuesday, setting South Africa on course for a 201-run win over Ireland in the Australian capital, Canberra.
Amla (159) and Faf Du Plessis (109) shared a 247-run second-wicket partnership before Rilee Russow (61 not out) and David Miller (46 not out) added an unbroken 110-run stand to lift South Africa to 411-4, beating its own mark — set last Friday — for the second-highest total ever at the Cricket World Cup. India's 413-5 against lowly ranked Bermuda in 2007 remains the tournament record.
Ireland was all out for 210 in reply.
Among the milestones, Amla became the fastest player to reach 20 ODI centuries — in his 111th match — and South Africa was the first team to post consecutive 400-plus totals in ODIs.
"Any hundred is a hundred," Amla said. "Doesn't matter how long it takes."
The South Africans entered the tournament as one of the favourites for the title, but under a cloud of doubt that has followed them as they've failed to live up to expectations at World Cups.
After opening with a solid win over Zimbabwe, South Africa was bowled out for 177 and slumped to a 130-run loss to India, a team that entered the World Cup without a win in a competitive match in two months on Australian soil.
That hurt the South Africans, and they've responded by inflicting pain on lower-ranked teams.
"What pleases me about our batting is we did it our way," de Villiers said. "We're not trying to follow someone else's strategy, we followed our game plans and what we believe works for us."
Ireland won its first two matches but its chances of a third straight victory took a big dive when Amla was dropped on 10.
"There was disappointment, but we couldn't dwell on it. We had to get on with it," Ireland captain William Porterfield said. "You want to be taking your chances, but that's part of cricket as well. We've got to move on from that."
Ed Joyce, who dropped the catch at mid-wicket off Kevin O'Brien's bowling in the sixth over, held on to the chance in the outfield when Amla stepped down the pitch and lofted an Andy McBrine ball into the deep with South Africa's total at 299.
Ireland was in trouble early, slipping to 21-3 as Dale Steyn, who finished with bowling figures of 2-39, and Kyle Abbott (4-21), got right on top. Andy Balbirnie (58) and Kevin O'Brien (48) helped prolong the innings to the 45th over.
Four-time champion Australia will be in action on Wednesday against tournament newcomer Afghanistan in a Pool A match at Perth, and 1992 champion Pakistan takes on United Arab Emirates in a Pool B match in Napier, New Zealand.
The Australians are coming off a one-wicket loss to tournament co-host New Zealand at Auckland last Saturday and face Sri Lanka this Sunday, so there's very little chance they'll drop their intensity against Afghanistan, which claimed its first win at the World Cup when it beat Scotland by one wicket last week.
Pakistan ended its losing streak with a comfortable win over Zimbabwe on the weekend, and needs a win over second-tier UAE to keep its cup aspirations alive. Nine members of the UAE squad are Pakistan-born, but insist they won't be overawed or inclined to go easy when they take on a Pakistan team that faces elimination from the tournament unless it finds form quickly.
"We are here to upset some good teams," UAE allrounder Amjad Javed said.