South Africa captain Faf du Plessis said an honest assessment of their own complacency had brought rewards as they hammered New Zealand by 204 runs in the second Test at SuperSport Park in Centurion on Tuesday to clinch the series 1-0.
The victory also sees an immediate improvement in their world ranking from seventh to fifth, and Du Plessis said a ‘culture camp’ in which they all sat down and had a good chat had made all the difference for the Proteas after a miserable 2015/16 season.
“The biggest change is that we’ve found our passion again and why we want to win. The team space is very good and we had some really good discussions, everyone was very mature and took on board everything that was said.
“We felt we needed to improve, we can’t rest on our laurels like the previous team could, we’re not good enough yet to do that. So it’s been a mental transition and we are all extremely hungry to perform, you saw that determination right through this Test,” Du Plessis said after his team wrapped up victory half-an-hour before the end of the fourth day.
Although the final blows were delivered with the ball over the last three days, New Zealand being bowled out for just 214 and 195, Du Plessis said the first-innings batting performance had set up the win. South Africa batted with tremendous patience and composure after being sent in to bat, the top five all passing 50 in a record-equalling display, with Du Plessis himself going on to an unbeaten century to allow the Proteas to post a match-winning score of 481 for eight.
“We always say we want to get 400 and that generally means someone getting a hundred in the top six. To do that was a great effort, especially on that pitch, especially by the guys on Day One. To then be able to bowl the opposition out for less than 300 really puts the pressure on them.
“The top-order played with a combination of intensity, aggression and survival which allowed us to get through the first day and then we just wanted to try and bat once. It set up Day Two and allowed us to put a big score on the board,” Du Plessis said.
The rookie Test captain did add, however, how fortunate he was to call on bowlers of the calibre of Dale Steyn and Vernon Philander, saying they had proven themselves to be back at the height of their considerable powers.
“It will be tough to be a top team without Dale and Vernon, it’s amazing as a captain to be able to throw them the ball and know that the run-rate will be less than three and they will get wickets as well, that’s why they are so good. You need bowlers like them to be able to control the game.
“Dale showed good intensity, gas and control, while Vernon bowled very well too, there weren’t many bad balls from him. They’ll both be even better when they bowl more,” Du Plessis said.