Faf du Plessis points to lack of experience after SA slump to third consecutive series defeat
Captain Faf du Plessis pointed to his team’s lack of experience after South Africa slumped to their third consecutive series defeat.
They lost the four-match series 3-1 to England after going down by 191 runs in the fourth Test.
They have won just one of their last nine Test matches and Du Plessis reminded his team was in transition.
“We’ve had nine debutants in the last eight Tests, which just shows where we are. It is experience we need and it will take time, and I know everyone is disappointed but every team goes through this.
“Unfortunately we are at the stage where it is happening right now and I have no doubt that in a year or two, we’ll look back at this time and see that this is where it started again for us.”
Du Plessis had praise for right arm quick Anrich Nortje who enhanced his Test credentials with wholehearted performances in the four Tests.
“Nortje had a really good series and he is one of the finds for us.
"We always knew he had pace but the fact he showed control and adapted with different lengths on different pitches is what we need.
“We need guys to come into test cricket and just shine. That’s what used to happen and it eased the transition period a lot quicker.”
He acknowledged however that significant holes have been left in the South African bowling unit.
“There is a gap where our next tier of bowlers need to be, to get to same quality as (Kagiso) Rabada, (Vernon) Philander, (Morne) Morkel and (Dale) Steyn.”
Not that the South African batting is beyond reproach.
Zubayr Hamza who came into the Test set-up last year has averaged just 18 and was dropped for the fourth Test at the Wanderers.
Opener Pieter Malan’s only meaningful contribution was a gutsy second innings performance in the defeat at Newlands.
Although he has been on the scene for much longer, Temba Bavuma is yet to master the demands of Test cricket. His transition remains a work in progress.
Du Plessis’s batting has also been underwhelming.
He tried to guts it out in the South African second innings on Monday but a Ben Stokes delivery that kept low proved his undoing.
Du Plessis averaged just 18 in his eight knocks in the series.
The batting fragility was underlined at a time Jacques Kallis presides as batting consultant.
On the plus side Quinton de Kock has been the most consistent performer with the bat for South Africa over the last year. He scored a half century in each of the four Tests against England.
Rassie van der Dussen scored three half centuries in the series and looks a player that warrants further investment in the Test squad. His fighting 98 in the second innings at the Wanderers will stand him in good stead.
“In terms of game-plans and solid technique, Rassie showed what is required by the batting unit, he was a good example.
"He’s done a lot of work with Jacques Kallis on a little technical thing, he was getting out in similar ways, he fixed it and it paid off.
“That’s exactly what this batting unit needs – some guidance. But Rassie’s composure is what is needed at this level and that’s why we back him. He needs to play for the next three or four years,” said Du Plessis.
There are many unanswered questions about the South African team’s batting and bowling but equally Du Plessis’s captaincy has come under the spotlight.
When his team has been under pressure Du Plessis hasn’t always found ways of relieving it.
He defended the way he organised his troops when they were under the whip at the tail end of the England first innings at the Wanderers.
“The fans always look at the captain and ask why he didn’t do something, but it’s very easy when the bowlers can bowl towards a plan.
"When 10 and 11 start slogging, it looks like you’re getting it wrong but there’s nothing you can change.
"We saw the same thing in Port Elizabeth when Keshav Maharaj and Dane Paterson were slogging, you didn’t see people saying England were tactically wrong,” Du Plessis said.