South Africa's captain Faf du Plessis
South Africa's captain Faf du Plessis Image Credit: AFP

Southampton: South Africa skipper Faf du Plessis is a shattered man. Despite his disappointment at losing to New Zealand by four wickets at Edgbaston on Wednesday — a result that all but ends the Proteas’ chances of progressing to the semi-finals — he was sporting enough to hail opposing captain Kane Williamson. He was candid in expressing his emotions. It was one of the most honest confessions by a captain whose team had failed to rise to expectations.

When asked whether it is all over for South Africa, he said: “It’s tough now. You can feel in the dressing room the guys are hurting. I’m feeling five years older and my body is really sore. The guys fought well … they showed that. Unfortunately, we’ve just not been as good as the opposition that we’ve played against. New Zealand was a little bit better than us today. That’s a skill thing. That’s not a hunger thing. That’s not a determination thing. That’s not a fight thing. So I can’t fault the team for that.”

Du Plessis feels that Williamson (106 off 138 balls) played one of the finest knocks and took the game away. “We threw everything at New Zealand, possibly 20 runs short, if you’re really asking yourself, but it was a tough wicket,” said Du Plessis. “The guys tried everything on the field with the bat and ball...they tried for all 50 overs, and that’s all I can ask for. There was a great intensity. But Kane played a great knock, and that’s probably the difference between the two sides, just one guy taking it through.”

While explaining the defeat, Du Plessis also pointed out that Williamson showed how to play a good knock on such a wicket. “The message from me to the guys was to keep them in the game all the time,” he said. “So even if someone batted well, played a few good shots, we tried to keep the intensity on the field, and I can’t fault that. I do believe we threw everything at them, especially with the ball. So well played to Kane. He showed how to put an innings together on a pitch that you need to decide when to push and when to hold back, and he picked his battles. He targeted a few overs in the game, and the rest he just ticked it off. So really good choice from him.”

So what has gone wrong for South Africa in this World Cup? The dejected skipper said: “We need guys to stand up and put in performances that will win you games. That has been where we’ve been short in the innings we’ve played so far. The one with Quinny (Quinton De Kock) getting 60 or 70 the previous game gave us signs of that, but we needed more of that. That’s why I use him as a reference ... we needed someone to go further, and we haven’t had that.

“That’s purely the finger pointing back to us as a batting unit. We did well in parts today. The wicket wasn’t as flat as you would have thought it would be. Those first 15 overs felt exactly like Auckland. The ball was hooping around corners there. So we thought it would be easy, but they kept getting a wicket every time there was a 50 or 60 partnership. And we needed that to go to 100, someone to bat through the innings. Rassie (van Der Dussen) did a little bit of that, but it was a 60 to 67, when you get someone to get a 100 plus, that gives you that 15, 20 more runs. Ultimately, we were not as good as other teams and not producing scores or innings that can win you games.”