Faf du Plessis expressed his sympathy for Steve Smith but will not let it affect his side’s hunger to beat Australia.
The Proteas are favourites to win this Test series. Despite all the off-field news surrounding the ball-tampering debacle, cricket still needs to be played.
The Proteas demolished Australia in Cape Town by 322 runs, which saw them take 10 wickets for 50 runs in Australia’s second innings.
Du Plessis expects more of the same at the Wanderers.
‘That’s what competitors do; they want to make sure they finish the job,’ he said. ‘I’m expressing what I’m feeling towards a human being and what he is going through, but it certainly doesn’t take away what we are going to try and achieve over the next five days.
‘We are going to play that same style of cricket. It’s remarkable to see how the characters in our team have stood up at different times. I mentioned before the first Test how hungry the guys are and motivated to try to turn over this Australian team.
‘That’s been the reason we have been so successful. We’ve stood our ground and we are leading the series 2-1. It’s a huge next five days.
‘Australia are a quality team. They have a fantastic bowling attack that’s going to come out and try to get 20 wickets. But there’s a couple of new batters coming in so there’s an opportunity to try and expose them. I assume some of them are still jet-lagged so that’s something we can tap into, but they are a very high-quality cricketing nation, so these next five days are going to be tough, but we are really looking forward to it.’
An emotional Smith addressed the media on Thursday for the first time since his one-year ban was announced.
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Du Plessis admitted that he felt sorry for the Australia skipper.
‘It’s been a crazy week. I do feel sorry for Steve. I do have compassion for what he is going through. He’s just been caught in a bad place,’ said Du Plessis.
‘He’s obviously taken responsibility for that. Certainly, we are not sitting in a glass house where we think we are better than them in that aspect.
‘For me, it’s a mistake that was made. It’s easier said than done but now he can move on from that. The penalty was a bit harsh and quite hard on him and I do have some compassion for what he is going through.
‘You don’t want to see any cricketer or any person go through that amount of pain, so I do feel for what he is going through as a captain.
‘As a leader, he would have tried to have his identity put into the Australian team and perhaps now that chance has been taken away from him, which is not nice.
‘To be a captain of your country is a huge honour and you can see the disappointment from him. I do really feel sorry for him.’
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Du Plessis revealed that he had been in contact with Smith.
‘I did send him a text,’ he added. ‘From a really deep place in my heart, I feel for the guy. You don’t want to see guys going through that stuff and it’s going to be incredibly hard for him, the next few days.
‘So I just sent him a message of support saying that he will get through this and that he must just be strong. He said he appreciated the message so there’s a lot of respect between the two of us.’