It's been a tough year, says Graeme Smith

The Proteas left Durban on Saturday hoping to put the Kingsmead curse behind them and start 2012 with a home series win against Sri Lanka.

“This has been a tough year for the Proteas,” said captain Graeme Smith after his team’s defeat in Durban, and their emotional rollercoaster after being knocked out of the 2011 Cricket World Cup by New Zealand earlier in the year.

“Hopefully 2012 will be a good one for us with the contests that lie ahead.”

They start the year with the opportunity to win the three-Test series against Sri Lanka and then travel to New Zealand and to England in the middle of the year.

“Our problems are best dealt with out in the middle, through our performances and putting things right.

“Ultimately, we can train and talk as much as we like but we need to get out there and put things right in the middle. That’s the best way.”

The Proteas have lost their last four encounters at Kingsmead, all by significant margins—against Australia, England, India and most recently Sri Lanka - with their biggest defeat coming against England, a Test which they lost by an innings and 98 runs in December 2009 and their least painful defeat against India, by 87 runs, in December 2010.

They arrived in Cape Town looking to make the most of their two days preparation before the third and final Test starts on Tuesday.

Their extraordinary victory over Australia last month, by eight wickets, inside three days was still fresh in their minds and would go a long way to help them recover from their drubbing in Durban.

“Cape Town is a ground where we have played well in the past,” Smith said.

“We’ve been in this situation before where we’ve arrived at Newlands after losing at Kingsmead [against England and India] and we may not have won but we played the better cricket and had the opportunities to win both those Tests.”

The Proteas have not won a home Test series since beating Bangladesh 2-0 in July 2008 and will be looking to wrap up the series.

“The motivation is there for the players,” said Smith.

“The series is on the line—and we haven’t won a series for a few years in SA so we’re not short on motivation.

“We need to regroup as a team and my challenge as the leader is to pick the guys up, and make sure mentally they go into the Test match in a strong, good place and are ready to play well.”

Smith said it was not his responsibility alone to boost the side but those of the senior players, various coaches and support staff with the team.

“They all play a role and hopefully we will be in a good space going into the Cape Town Test.” - Sapa

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