Rassie van der Dussen. Picture: ANESH DEBIKY/GALLO IMAGES
Rassie van der Dussen. Picture: ANESH DEBIKY/GALLO IMAGES

Cardiff - Replacing AB de Villiers would be a tall order for any player, but Rassie van der Dussen has made a fist of it at the World Cup.

He showed his class under a different kind of pressure in Cardiff on Thursday when he was asked about the retired De Villiers’ making a failed bid to return to the fold hours before SA announced their squad.

“I wasn’t surprised that he would want to make a comeback on the world’s biggest stage,” Van der Dussen said. “That’s something the biggest players in sport have in common — they want to perform when the pressure’s on and when the stage is at its biggest.

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“Did it affect me? No. I’m quite happy to be mentioned in the same sentence as AB. He’s one of the best there’s ever been.

“Do I have to replace him? I don’t feel I have to. Can I play matchwinning innings for my country? I believe I can.

“Is that what he did? Yes, he did.

“It didn’t have as big an effect as I think people would like to believe it did.”

De Villiers quit the international arena in May 2018 and was told that, if he wanted to return and play in the World Cup, he would have to feature in SA’s series against Pakistan and Sri Lanka in January and March.

Instead he decided to play in concurrent T20 leagues in Bangladesh and Pakistan.

During the early stages of the 2019 Indian Premier League, which started on March 23, De Villiers floated the possibility of a return — even though by then he had made himself ineligible for selection.

Hours before the squad was announced, on May 18, he again raised the issue.

At that point selection convenor Linda Zondi ended the debate because De Villiers had not played against Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

Van der Dussen agreed that the selectors would have set a dangerous precedent by backtracking and picking De Villiers regardless.

“It’s not necessarily the best question to be asked of me because I’m involved, and had he not retired it definitely would have influenced me directly,” Van der Dussen said.

“But you can’t on the day before the announcement of a squad that has been worked towards for longer than a year come and say: ‘I want to make a comeback’.

“I’m not saying he was wrong or he was right. But it would’ve set a difficult precedent.

“Not necessarily a wrong one because it’s still AB; he’s still one of the best players in the world. I just think it was maybe handled not in the correct way from his side.

“As I believe, Ottis [Gibson] and Faf [du Plessis] gave him opportunities to say: ‘Let’s manage your workloads going into the World Cup because we want you to play a World Cup’.

“He had a fair chance to manage that, and he said no and he’s happy to retire. Faf accepted it, Ottis accepted it, and they stood by it.”  

Van der Dussen was selected instead, and has repaid that faith by scoring 50, 41 and 22 at the World Cup.

Of SA’s players, only Quinton de Kock has scored more runs — five more, and in one more innings — and only De Kock has faced more balls.

SA will need more where that came from Van der Dussen and the rest of their batting line-up when they play Afghanistan here on Saturday.

Having earned only one point from their four games, nothing less than a win will keep Du Plessis’ team in contention for the semifinals — and even then only marginally.

But the weather that has washed out four of the 18 scheduled games at the event looks determined to send SA’s hopes down the drain: rain has been forecast for Cardiff on Saturday.