South Africa all-rounder Faf du Plessis struck a confident note on Monday when he said the Proteas should have too much depth in every department for World Cup quarterfinal opponent New Zealand to counter, providing his team maintains its form.
South Africa emerged as the team to beat since prevailing in a tight match against co-host India, topping Group B to set up Friday’s knockout match with New Zealand.
“I’m happy with playing New Zealand,” Du Plessis said. “Even if we were playing any of the other teams, we wouldn’t have been too worried. We specifically said we didn’t want to focus on who we’re playing and have our minds distracted.
“If we prepare well and we’re ready for the game and play to our full ability, we’re confident we’ll win the quarterfinal.”
Du Plessis acknowledged that New Zealand could be dangerous, but added: “I’m not too worried about what they’ve got. If we bowl well, field well and bat well, we’ll win the game.”
South Africa have been in this position before, most notably in 1999 when they were strong in the early stages but contrived to tie the semifinal against Australia — despite only needing one run to win with four balls remaining — and missing out on the final due to runrates.
‘We’ll win the game’
Apart from one hiccup against England, South Africa have looked like one of the best all-round sides at the tournament and the pressure is once again on the team to break its World Cup duck, but players like the 26-year-old Du Plessis are unaffected by past failures.
Du Plessis made his South Africa debut in January and is now preparing for only his 10th international match.
“If you think about making mistakes you’re not going to play your best game,” he said. “Even when we were in tough situations [during the group stage], guys played with freedom and got us out of that hole.
“We’re not going to put too much emphasis on it being a quarterfinal or whatever. It’s just another game and if we do the things we’ve been doing, we’ll win the game.”
With the quarterfinal on Friday, both teams find themselves with almost a week off following their final group games.
That will allow New Zealand to nurse bowlers Daniel Vettori and Kyle Mills back to full fitness. The South Africa players didn’t even have to travel after beating Bangladesh in Dhaka on Saturday, allowing them some vital rest days.
“I think it’s important to take your mind off cricket,” Du Plessis said. “Then three, four days before the game, you start to build up the intensity until match day when you should be firing on all cylinders.”
‘Learn from your mistakes’
AB de Villiers, Morne Morkel and Dale Steyn were rested for the win over Bangladesh, but will be fit for the quarterfinal. Jacques Kallis has had treatment for a tight hamstring, but it is not considered serious.
New Zealand captain Vettori has declared he will be ready to face South Africa after missing two games with a knee injury, while Mills is also hoping to shake off a thigh problem.
However, Hamish Bennett has been ruled out of the rest of the tournament and replaced by Daryl Tuffey.
New Zealand ended up fourth in Group A after an up-and-down campaign. The Kiwis beat Pakistan, but were comprehensively beaten by Australia and Sri Lanka.
The batting proved particularly vulnerable in both those losses.
“It’s frustrating when you see the same errors repeated over and over again,” coach John Wright was quoted as saying on Monday. “You must learn from your mistakes and that’s all I want really.” — Sapa-AP