Proteas mentally strong ahead of World Cup, says coach
Chasing the elusive ICC Cricket World Cup title, Proteas coach Russell Domingo says his team are mentally strong enough to bring it home.
“We’re not taking a mental conditioning coach. I’ve tried to approach this World Cup in the same way as any other series,” Domingo said at the team’s official send-off in Johannesburg on Wednesday.
“Why create the anxiety when we’ve been playing so well without it?”
South Africa used the services of a mental coach during the previous World Cup in 2011, but Domingo was confident his charges would be able to perform in pressure situations without one at the showpiece event in Australia and New Zealand starting on February 14.
The Proteas were fresh from a comprehensive 4-1 home series win over the West Indies, but performing on the bigger stage would be about winning each individual game, Domingo said.
“We’re going to have to win one-off games. I really feel this team is in as good a space mentally as they’ve ever been.
“They’ve won games in high-pressure situations under different conditions at different venues.
They’ve got a real pride in their performance and they’re passionately led by a captain who plays with his heart on his sleeve.
“All the blocks are in place to see we overcome all those challenges.”
South Africa have had mixed results leading into the tournament, losing 4-1 to hosts Australia in a five-match one-day international series in November before beating the Windies at home.
Proteas captain AB de Villiers said his players accepted the responsibility of representing their country and meeting the high expectations of their supporters.
“The individual performances are driven by the team. Yes, we’re feeling pressure and there’s no hiding from that,” De Villiers said.
“We’ve never won the World Cup and it’s definitely something counting against us – people call us chokers and we have to deal with that.
“We just have to stick together as a team and win those pressure situations and games.”
De Villiers felt a strong performance at the World Cup would help unite the nation.
“We’re going there to bring the World Cup home, there’s no doubt about it.
“Thinking about the 1995 Rugby World Cup and Bafana winning Afcon in 1996, its about uniting the nation and winning it for our country.”
Domingo confirmed reports that former Australian middle-order batsman Michael Hussey would be brought into the Proteas set-up during the tournament.
“We’ve had some discussions with Mike Hussey about him joining us on a consultancy process.
“He’s a middle-order batter of immense experience and knows conditions very well in Australia. He’ll play a very low-key role in the background.”
Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula was in attendance at the team send-off and had a clear message of inspiration for the Proteas.
“March on you skilful warriors with De Villiers and [Hashim] Amla in your vanguard,” Mbalula said.
“There are over 50-million people in your rearguard ... In your veins flows the blood of African warriors ... Your time has come to conquer the world stage of cricket.”
Proteas team manager Mohammed Moosajee confirmed that Vernon Philander, Quinton de Kock and JP Duminy had all come through their fitness tests adequately ahead of their departure.
South Africa were scheduled to leave for New Zealand on Wednesday and play their first warm-up game against Sri Lanka in Christchurch on Monday February 9. – Sapa