Australia in South Africa 2013-14 February 4, 2014

'Australia will try and target me'- du Plessis


Faf du Plessis is bracing himself to be one of the men with a bulls-eye on his back for the upcoming Test series against Australia. With it all but confirmed that du Plessis will bat at No.4, in what used to be Jacques Kallis' spot, he believes that the Australian pack will aim specifically at him because of his new responsibility.

"The one thing the Australians do really well is that target guys," du Plessis said after the first day of South Africa's practice match against a Composite XI. "They will probably target Graeme because he is the captain, and I thought they did that really well with Alastair Cook, and then look at other guys. Like myself. I am going to be a new role so they may want to target that."

Peter Siddle already explained Smith will be one of the pillars they want to send crashing and du Plessis may have given Australia an idea of who the other can be. Their memory of him is of Adelaide, where he batted for almost eight hours and tired their attack, to secure a draw which South Africa described as providing the morale for them to win the series.

Going after a man who showed such defiance may prove difficult, but du Plessis is wary that Australia may aim to do that, in order to try and break South Africa at one of their strongest points. So, he is planning to keep his game plan as "tight," as possible and not to give Australia a sniff that they could use to get through him.

"I am just going to be very patient and wait for mistakes from the bowlers. When you bat up the order you have to stay in your bubble a little bit longer," du Plessis explained. Although he has not batted at No.4 too often for South Africa, on the occasions when he has done it, such as against India at the Wanderers last December, he has gone on to score big. "I think I play at my best when I am being patient," he said.

Du Plessis demonstrated some of that in the tour match. He came in with South Africa stuttering on 46 for 2 and saw them slip into even deeper trouble at 51 for 3. With JP Duminy, he ushered them to some safety. Du Plessis batted for over two hours and faced 83 balls, including some quick ones from Wayne Parnell, to score 36. He enjoyed the battle in challenging conditions.

"The wicket was tough to bat on early on and usually we would not choose to bat first, we'd let our bowlers go in and exploit the conditions but because we're in preparation, we wanted to ourselves," he said. "There was a lot of movement and tennis-ball type bounce."

Later in the afternoon, when the sun came out, batting became easier but this time, du Plessis had not lasted long enough to cash in. He was dismissed when he offered a return catch to offspinner Simon Harmer, and it was up to the tail to take South Africa to 300.

Vernon Philander, in particular, stood out for his ability to bat the team out of trouble at a good rate. "Vernon has been batting beautifully for us for the last year or so. He has really put his peg in the ground as a proper allrounder," du Plessis said. "If you look at all those lower-order guys, they are at their best when they are looking to score. So their job is to be nice and positive."

The batsmen at the bottom could also end up being specific targets, because du Plessis isolated them as having a deciding role to play in this series. "No. 7 to 11 will play a crucial part for both teams," he said. "Australia also bat deep so I think that will play a big role in this series."

His analysis fits in well with the way the contest has been hyped up - as a battle of the bowlers, with all indications suggesting that it will be tough for the batsmen. Du Plessis endorsed that notion, predicting a spicy Centurion pitch for next week's opener. "We've done well at home on wickets that have assisted the bowlers and been quite difficult to bat on, especially with the new ball," du Plessis said. "But if we get a flat wicket, then that could assist Australia, because they are quite attacking in their strokeplay."

SuperSport Park has often given South Africa's quicks exactly what they want and with Dale Steyn ready to fire after a rib injury, there's no reason to believe it won't do so again. Steyn bowled just three overs on the first day of the tour match and will increase his load as game day draws nearer. "Dale was at about 60% today, off half a run-up, just to get back into it," du Plessis said. "You'll see over the next few days, he'll be stepping it up." No doubt, Steyn has his own targets in mind come next Wednesday.

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Manan on February 6, 2014, 13:09 GMT

    I can see SA win the series easily. Aus is good bowling side but they cant bat. Beating england wont make you good side.

    Clerk captaincy and Aus bowler & laughing lehman SA should watch out.

  • fan on February 6, 2014, 11:56 GMT

    I don't know why is he thinking that aussies will target him. Most of their players don't even know you they won't waste their times thinking about you and their problem is south Africas bowling not batting

  • Kendal on February 6, 2014, 5:38 GMT

    @Shaggy076..fair enough mate! Hope it's a cracker. My old man roots for Johnson ever since he first saw him bowl here in 2008/09, so there is competition even in our family...

  • Xiong on February 6, 2014, 0:40 GMT

    @RednWhite Must be nice to support England, the country that never makes excuses!

    @Afridibest Lyon will definitely play. If Australia play Pattinson in the first test I'm not even going to bother watching, it'll either be a Pattinson slaughter or Harris will suffer a complete physical breakdown due to being overworked because Pattinson has been simply awful since his return from injury. Been reminding me of old Mitch.

  • Graham on February 5, 2014, 20:04 GMT

    Gimmeagreentop; I agree with you but it seems with the so many commenters jumping at shadows ie Clarke, that if an Aussie said what Faf said we would be reading more comments on the aussies talking a big game. It seems our recent achievements are continuously put down and we are wrongly labeled the big talking no talent aussies. I understand you are more knowledgeable and respectful than these commenters. I'm looking forward for the cricket too start and see how we stand up against the #1 team and I'm expecting a very competetive series.

  • Justin on February 5, 2014, 16:42 GMT

    He will go well at 4, its not like Kallis has ever dominated oz with bat and to be fair, was always fodder for them with ball so nothing really lost. SA should win easily, its just perhaps the last 4 series against oz they should've as well..,,won the two away after oz squandered winning positions in nearly every test...and lost one at home and should've lost the other. South Africa's overall test record in recent years is highly underrated... This is their bogey series, oz at home. If they get over this then finally we can start to talk about the true powerhouse successor to australia, after england and India collapsed under the weight of being on top. SA have too much class in their batting lineup even though the aussie attack is on fire... and their bowling is good enough to rip through the weak Aussie lineup. Will be close as always though...south Africa have always played scared against oz so I hope we can keep that going and sneak a win in!

  • Dummy4 on February 5, 2014, 16:10 GMT

    Judging from the typically poor attempts at chest thumping and belittling of the opposition in response to anything positive the aussies say about themselves, id say that the usual south african fear of failure is running wild again.

  • Dummy4 on February 5, 2014, 15:36 GMT

    You can do it, the whole "non-greedy" cricket loving world supports you!

  • shahzaib on February 5, 2014, 14:35 GMT

    du Plessis's defence is good, i expect All pace attack from australia. johnson,harris,siddle,pattinson. and south africa will have three and half quicks Steyn,philander,morkel, parnell. good luck to both sides.

  • Tim on February 5, 2014, 13:05 GMT

    The Protea's batsmen will be targeting MJ, Siddle et al. It remains to be seen how badly the Australians are scarred from their hammering in Perth. Should be good.

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