South Africa's captain Faf du Plessis (left) celebrates with his players after victory in the 2019 Cricket World Cup group stage match between Australia and South Africa at Old Trafford in Manchester, the UK, July 6 2019. Picture: PAUL ELLIS/AFP
South Africa's captain Faf du Plessis (left) celebrates with his players after victory in the 2019 Cricket World Cup group stage match between Australia and South Africa at Old Trafford in Manchester, the UK, July 6 2019. Picture: PAUL ELLIS/AFP

Manchester — Did SA finally play properly in their World Cup game against Australia at Old Trafford on Saturday because they were fresh after a break‚ or because they knew the pressure was off?

“I think both‚” Faf du Plessis said after SA held their nerve to win a high-scoring match by 10 runs.

Powered by Du Plessis’s 100 — their only century of the tournament — SA scored 325/6‚ their biggest total‚ and dismissed Australia for 315.

That was only their third win in eight completed games: they have been out of the running for a place in the semifinals since before their previous match‚ against Sri Lanka‚ which they also won‚ and which was followed by four days off.

“We’ve had conversations behind closed doors about this‚ and I’m a big believer that especially your more experienced players know their game is best when they are fresh.

“I speak on my own behalf that after the four days away from everything that’s been going on‚ I came back and the net session was probably the best one on tour.

“I have gone through the ups and downs and I know what is required‚ but the younger players are probably a bit different. They need to feel like they are prepared for the game‚ they need to hit a lot of balls‚ bar Quinny [Quinton de Kock] — he just goes on feel.

“It is something we need to learn from‚ from a team point of view‚ that if there is an opportunity to make sure that players can get rest‚ especially before a tournament‚ we need to take it.

“In all sports you are at your best when you are fresh mentally because it’s that extra 10% which we probably lacked in the first seven [completed] games. It’s the battle of the mind and then that’s something we can learn from.”

Du Plessis paid fulsome tribute to Imran Tahir and JP Duminy‚ who played their last ODIs on Saturday. Tahir will continue to be available for SA’s T20 team, but Duminy has called a halt to his entire international career.

“They’re two guys I’ve got so much respect for‚” Du Plessis said. "Imran started with me at the Titans. He was straight out of Pakistan and it was like from Lahore into the Titans‚ for him.

“He’s just got an incredible amount of passion and love for the game of cricket and he really commits to whichever team he plays for because he’s such a big-hearted player. He’s got the same amount of energy everywhere he goes‚ whether he is playing a domestic game or an international game. And he is hands down SA’s best celebrator ever‚ so I hope that people will remember that because that inspires kids.

“JP has been the father figure of the team for a long time now. He’s been my sounding board in the team; he’s a very wise man. It’s always nice for me to have him around to talk to him about how I’m feeling‚ what the team’s feeling.”

South Africa's captain Faf du Plessis (left) celebrates with his players after victory in the 2019 Cricket World Cup group stage match between Australia and South Africa at Old Trafford in Manchester, the UK, July 6 2019. Picture: PAUL ELLIS/AFP
South Africa's captain Faf du Plessis (left) celebrates with his players after victory in the 2019 Cricket World Cup group stage match between Australia and South Africa at Old Trafford in Manchester, the UK, July 6 2019. Picture: PAUL ELLIS/AFP