Proteas skipper Faf du Plessis says his side are in a good space after inflicting a first 5-0 defeat on Australia.
South Africa made history at Newlands on Wednesday night as the 31-run victory over Australia completed the whitewash.
It was a complete performance from the Proteas that saw them outplay their opponents in each match, and despite the tourists missing several first-choice bowlers, their top order was expected to use their experience to step up.
The Proteas had up to eight first-choice players missing at various stages of the series themselves, and while winning the series was obviously the aim for stand-in skipper Du Plessis, not in his wildest dreams would he have expected to have walked away with all five victories in the bag.
‘It’s really special,’ said Du Plessis. ‘We never expected before the series to win 5-0. We wanted to beat the Aussies, but then when we went 3-0 up we wanted to make sure we didn’t take our foot off the gas.
‘It was a special feeling. I’m hoping I’ll wake up tomorrow and realise how incredible a team achievement it was and I want that feeling to last a long time.
With various injuries preventing influential captain AB de Villiers from taking part in the Test series against New Zealand and then the ODI series against the Aussies, Du Plessis inherited a team low on confidence and under public pressure. He’s managed to turn that around, but he revealed that it took a lot of hard work to get to that stage from the staff and players alike.
‘For me the greatest thing was that we were a team throughout and everyone put up their hand,’ he said.
‘As a squad we made a huge transition when we went away and had a hard look at ourselves. The coaches played a huge part in that and they were eager to try and improve themselves and accept criticism. Since then Russell [Domingo] has stepped up his game. He’s challenging the players a lot more, and the whole coaching staff has asking for more from their players and that’s healthy.’
‘I have to take my hat off to Russell, he’s been brilliant.’
The 32-year-old has also learnt a lot about his own leadership. He’s been the skipper of the T20 side for the last two years, but his stints as captain in the other formats has forced him to grow into an even more responsible role.
‘I’ve learnt a lot about myself in the last two-to-three months. I didn’t change the way I captain but I challenged myself to challenge other players more. My first two years as captain was more about getting the best out of my players and have them on my side. But I’ve learnt that it’s more important to be honest with them and try and get the best out of them. The players respond better to that.’
The squad will now enjoy a bit of a break before they head off to tackle the Australians for their three-match Test series in Australia. The most important thing going into that series, for Du Plessis, is that the side is now full of confidence and eager to continue building on what has been a successful couple of months.
‘The squad is in a really good space so I’m just really happy. We accept that we won’t win every series but we know what’s required and we just need to keep challenging ourselves.’
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