Faf du Plessis and Vernon Philander are nursing injuries which will be monitored overnight before a decision on their availability is made for South Africa’s final World Cup pool match against the UAE in Wellington on Thursday.
Du Plessis has a lower back problem which he has been ‘managing’ for months, but it flared up again against Pakistan at the weekend. Philander, who has missed South Africa’s last three pool games due to a hamstring injury, has a good chance of playing though.
With the revelation of Du Plessis’ ongoing back strain, South Africa have taken their fair share of risks regarding the fitness of the squad. Du Plessis is the third player to succumb to injury, following Philander and JP Duminy, both of whom missed matches.
Of Philander, following the allrounder’s injury that forced him off the field against India, Proteas team manager, Dr Mohammed Moosajee said: ‘Vernon received treatment in the build-up to the [India] game from physiotherapist Brendan Jackson. He passed all the fitness tests and was symptom free going into the game. As is common with fast bowlers and the nature of hamstring injuries, these kind of things can happen at any stage,’
Duminy missed the games against Ireland and the West Indies due to a side strain, with coach Russell Domingo reluctant beforehand to make his name public.
It is especially clear with Philander’s injury that the team management have been fretting behind the scenes with the extent of his situation. He was supposed to be out for seven to 10 days, missing one game, perhaps two. Now he has missed three and there is still a small chance that he may not be ready to face the UAE.
If that happens, Philander will be seriously undercooked for the play-offs and it then becomes a gamble whether to pick him or not, since Kyle Abbott has done well in his absence.
De Villiers confirmed at his pre-match press conference on Wednesday that both Du Plessis and Philander will be assessed on Thursday morning before the game.
‘If the guys are ready I’d like to play a good strong team tomorrow,’ said De Villiers.
‘Vernon, we know, is very close to 100 percent, if not 100 percent. We’ll just have a final look tomorrow morning, and then it would be nice to give him a go if he is ready. Faf is struggling with a little bit of a lower back injury that he’s been looking after for a few months now.
De Villiers intimated that Quinton de Kock will get another chance to prove himself as an opener against the UAE, and said it was must-win match for the Proteas.
‘It’s a very important game. We have to win it. It’s not a “maybe we’ll win it” kind of game. It’s a must-win for us, very important. We’d really like to get to eight points and make sure we finish second in the group. That’s the plan for now. I wouldn’t like to get too technical about it. There are a few guys that I’d like to get into form as well.
‘I’d like to see a few players score some runs tomorrow hopefully. Bowling all around, it’s just good exercise for everyone to go out there, to have a nice bowl, maybe for one or two of the part-timers to get an extra bowl as well. We might need it in the knockout stages, and just an all-around good fielding performance tomorrow. That’s as detailed as I can get. Just a good basic game of cricket, nice and tight. That’s all I’m looking for.’
De Villiers said that fact that a few players were struggling for form made it difficult to pick some of the fringe players like Wayne Parnell and Aaron Phangiso for the UAE game.
‘It’s a difficult one, in that you don’t want to mess around too much with your best possible XI, keeping in mind that all 15 need to play somewhere along the line in the World Cup. We’d like to get everyone and have everyone in decent form. I think that’s more the responsibility of the coach and captain to make sure that around net sessions, around games, that the guys are all in a good space, especially those who are not playing.
‘It is tempting to give everyone a go, but there are not a lot of games in the World Cup. The total is nine games if you go all the way, and it’s a difficult decision. But there are a few players that we’d like to see run out there tomorrow who might not have played in the last game. We’ll see how we go.’
Should Philander be fit, it would make sense to pick him so he can get some match sharpness back before the play-offs. De Villiers admitted it would be a tough call to choose between seven batters or five out-and-out bowlers.
‘I think that’s the difficult decision that most teams in this World Cup have got to make. You play either the extra batter or the extra bowler. We look at what kind of team we’re playing against, what field we are playing on, what kind of situation and conditions we’re expecting, and then we make that call.
‘The last few games we’ve gone for the extra batter. Against India we went for the extra bowler. Both times we lost, so it’s a difficult one.’