Skipper Graeme Smith is phlegmatic in virtually every press conference he attends, but the sheer complexion of his team’s performance meant even he allowed himself to be a tad more vulnerable.
“There’s going to be criticism and a lot of emotion,” he said after surrendering a 1-0 series lead to Australia on Saturday..
“We didn’t meet expectations in this game and we deserve every bit that comes our way. We never hit our straps in any department in any of the four days.
“Throughout we had mishaps and things never seemed to fall into line. Ultimately we allowed Australia to play cricket on the front foot and we know when they do that, they’re a very dominant team.”
With the second Test in Port Elizabeth only four days away, the short turnaround combined with the type of panic a result like this induces could easily raise calls for sweeping action.
But Smith tempered calls for rash changes.
“A loss is a loss. It’s very disappointing at this stage but good reflection is important now. It’s about making good decisions now. We need wise heads now and prudent leadership.
“This side has a lot of good references to fall back on but there’s enough confidence to help us in the next game,” he said.
Self-belief, however, is not something many will believe the South Africans possess at the moment, specifically because quite a few of the players look generally off-colour.
Alviro Petersen’s position continues to be under the spotlight; Hashim Amla’s lean run continues; JP Duminy’s credentials as a viable Test player are questionable; Robin Peterson’s guts can’t mask his limitations and Dale Steyn’s class feels spotty.
Yet Smith remains defiant that the Proteas haven’t been dealt significant psychological damage.
“I doubt there’s much mental scarring, we lost a game of cricket comprehensively. There’s still two Tests left and we just need to move away from this one. We’ll reflect well. This game will benefit us, I truly believe that.