Southampton — Performance‚ performance‚ performance — Faf du Plessis has a new favourite word‚ and he hopes he will be able to use it in a positive sense before SA’s run at the World Cup ends.
“Right now we need to focus on our performance‚” Du Plessis said‚ after his team’s match against West Indies was washed out.
Four games into the tournament SA have yet to win a game‚ but Monday’s result was at least the first time they have not lost. The upshot is that SA face an uncertain path in their quest for a place in the semifinals‚ which will remain the case even if they win all five of their remaining games.
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“We are in this position because we haven’t played our best cricket so we don’t deserve to be anywhere close to the top of the log‚” Du Plessis said. “It is very clear for us as a team we need to be at our best and we need to play well in the next five games.”
Even that will not be good enough. To stay in the running‚ SA will need the cards to fall their way in others teams’ matches. But‚ their captain said‚ their enthusiasm for keeping their end of the bargain was high.
“The feeling in the camp is still very strong‚” he said. “The guys are still enjoying being on tour‚ enjoying being here. It is just that performance-wise we haven’t put in the performances we need and‚ generally‚ I find that when a team starts losing two or three games‚ it can happen that there’s a few cracks that can appear in a team and the blame game can start.
“And I do honestly believe that we have been very far away from that. That is a strong sign of us as a team‚ as a culture‚ and that is one aspect of performance. You get culture and then you get the actual performance on the field. It’s very good‚ positive sign that everything seems intact when it comes to that. But now it is just the performance and the skill side that needs to take over.”
It promises to be difficult not to focus on what is going on elsewhere‚ but Du Plessis was intent on keeping his eye on the ball.
“If we can get our performance sorted out — our skills‚ our confidence — back up to where it needs to be and you can start getting on a roll of two or three games … you can only really look at those things when it comes to the last week of the tournament.”
But he was cheering for co-favourites India‚ who are unbeaten having dealt with SA and Australia.
“You want the top team to keep winning to make sure there is a little bit of a breathing room for the other two or three teams‚ so you keep an eye on other results maybe in that aspect. But it’s obviously out of our control.”
SA were put into bat on Monday‚ and seemed on their way to another poor showing with the bat when they slipped to 29/2 in the 45 balls that were bowled before the rain came.
Afghanistan are their next opponents‚ in Cardiff on Saturday. SA should win‚ but there is a catch that could get in the way of them delivering that elusive performance: rain has been forecast.