Proteas captain Dean Elgar is treating the Test series decider against England at The Oval “like a World Cup final”.
The tourists won the first Test at Lord’s by an innings and 12 runs, only for England to level the three-match campaign with an even more emphatic innings-and-85-run success at Old Trafford last month.
But Elgar is confident the well-rested Proteas can secure a win that would take them back to the top of the World Test Championship table.
“It’s pretty much like a World Cup final for us, that’s the way I’m viewing it,” Elgar said on the eve of the match on Wednesday.
South Africa have not lost a Test series since Elgar took over the captaincy last year and the 35-year-old opener knows what is at stake.
“It’s the biggest Test so far in my captaincy,” he said. “The players know that, they sense that. You have to empty the tank. You can’t leave anything behind. It’s huge for us, massive.
“I’ve never experienced a Test series win against England, and that’s after playing for 10 years.
He added: “We know if we manage to win this game we’re back at No 1. It’s pretty much like a World Cup final for us, that’s the way I’m viewing it.”
Elgar confirmed Ryan Rickelton, who was in good form for English county side Northamptonshire earlier this season, would replace Rassie van der Dussen after the batsman was ruled out with a broken finger.
While declining to name his side, he also said other changes were possible, with Khaya Zondo in line to replace struggling batsman Aiden Markram and left-arm quick Marco Jansen bidding for a recall at the expense of off-spinner Simon Harmer.
Top-order runs have been a longstanding issue for South Africa – the Proteas have posted just one fifty in the series, Sarel Erwee’s 73 at Lord’s.
“I know how much top-order runs mean for a team to set up a successful chance of victory,” said Elgar, who has scored 13 hundreds in his 78 Tests.
“It’s been a frustration, but it’s something we’ve worked on hard. We’ve spoken at length about this topic, and now it’s time to walk the walk.”
South Africa have used some of their downtime to take a break from cricket by playing golf at the Belfry course in central England, with go-kart racing also proving a popular way for the tourists to relax and get the Old Trafford loss out of their system.
“We’ve only had six days of Test cricket [on the tour],” said Elgar. “With regards to freshness, we’ve got no excuse. With regards to hunger, we’ve got no excuse.
“We had a few good days out of the noise and the hustle and bustle to remind ourselves why we’re here – we’re here to win a Test series.”
© Agence France-Presse