We do well under pressure - du Plessis
Despite appearing to be a team that are still caught in those few seconds between being fully awake and deeply asleep, South Africa are not panicking. Their comprehensive defeat to Australia in the first ODI in Centurion on Wednesday has left them in danger of conceding a series on home soil unless they can recover in Port Elizabeth, and they are bullish about their ability to do that.
Sluggishness has been their major concern and so, rather than search for new methods, its energy that they are looking for. "I don't think any new strategy is needed," Russell Domingo, South Africa's assistant coach said. "This side has been the most successful side in international cricket statistically for the last 30 one-day internationals. They've won 70% of their games so they are one of the top sides in the world. There is no need to make drastic changes to the way they are playing."
Batting is the pressing issue for South Africa, particularly in the middle order, and Faf du Plessis spoke with severe conviction about how desperate they are to improve this aspect of their cricket. Like many of his peers, du Plessis has not had much cricket, barring a club stint in Netherlands, and said it will take a few innings for the machinery to be well oiled.
"Our batters have been under firing," du Plessis said. "I'm not using an excuse, but we have not played much cricket. That will just get better and better with more time in the middle. In the nets, the guys are batting beautifully. Personally, I've seen a bit of the Aussies now and I feel a bit more comfortable."
South Africa's batting has been seen as their weak point since the World Cup quarterfinal against New Zealand in March, which featured a familiar type of collapse that resulted in them bowing out of the tournament. Du Plessis was part of the side and it was his wicket that sparked the domino-show in Dhaka. Nonetheless, du Plessis does not believe South Africa are guilty of melting when the heat is turned up. "We're a side that does well under pressure," he said.
Those words may be difficult for some to swallow given South Africa's reputation, but du Plessis has a point. Earlier this year, South Africa were 2-0 down against India in a five-match ODI series and came back to win it 3-2. They also won their previous series, against Pakistan in the UAE, after being deadlocked at two apiece. "There were situations when we were down in series before, and then the guys stand up and play proper cricket, so we take it as nothing different this time around," du Plessis said. "We don't see it as extra pressure, just see it as another game."
Time is what the coaching staff is asking for. Gary Kirsten was handed the job in June but only actually took charge of the team less than two weeks ago. "It's difficult to come in straight away and make an immediate impact," Domingo said. "Gary is outstanding in the way he assesses people, how the side's playing and where he needs to go, but he still needs to have a look and see what's going to happen."
It's at the country's oldest Test ground that South Africa will have the opportunity to show their fight. South Africa have won 17 of the 25 ODIs played at St George's Park and Domingo, who coached Warriors to their maiden limited-overs title here two season ago, said the atmospehere and the famous band, will bolster the national team. "We [Warriors] used to feel as if we couldn't lose here because the crowd was the 12th man for us," he said. "The crowd's support at St George's Park makes it feel like you are defending 20-30 runs more, so it's a great venue to play at."
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent