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'Team understands how to take the country forward' - du Plessis

Faf du Plessis with Russell Domingo Getty Images

Faf du Plessis is comfortable with the selection process in South African cricket and believes transformation targets are not stopping them from fielding their best teams. The South Africa Test captain was responding to fresh criticism by Graeme Pollock of a system that requires the national side to field a minimum average of six players of colour (including two black Africans) over the course of a season.

Speaking at an event in London earlier this month, Pollock said South Africa would become a "middle of the road" Test team in future if the transformation policy remained in place. Du Plessis said he had not heard "the context in which Pollock was speaking" so it would be "unfair" to respond to Pollock personally but said that the team understood the policy.

"We as a team understand what we need to do and how we need to take the country forward," he said. "We get on with our business as usual. We play the best team and we try and win every game we play."

In 2016 the South African government banned four major sports - cricket, rugby, athletics and netball - from bidding for or hosting international events for not having done enough in terms of transformation. Each sport signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the sports ministry, the terms of which remain private. CSA has, however, made public the targets they decided to implement at national level and after exceeding them in the 2016-17 summer the ban was lifted.

"The major thing is the problem with the politics and interference with the selection of players," Pollock had originally said. "It's affecting the performance of the side - they don't put the 11 best players on the field. It's never going to change. As South Africans, we've got to accept that South Africa are going to be middle of the road in their future Test cricket."

He took issue with the domestic set-up, where targets are applicable per match and require each franchise and provincial team to field six players of colour including three black Africans. Pollock said this created an inherently weak structure which produced below-par cricketers of all races.

"You are going to pick a guy like Heino Kuhn, the opening batsman, who got a couple of hundreds in first-class cricket. He's not good enough to play Test cricket. The guys are playing in a bad standard of first-class cricket in South Africa because of the politics and interference in selection."

A week after Pollock's comments were first published, however, his spokesperson Basil O'Hagan issued a statement which claimed the quotes were "totally misconstrued", issued an apology and said Pollock is in favour of transformation.

"Graeme extends his sincerest apologies to CSA Board and the South African cricketing public for the manner in which his comments at recent function in London were totally misconstrued. Graeme fully supports the endeavours of the transformation process," O'Hagan said.

When asked by ESPNcricinfo which part of Pollock's original statement was misconstrued, O'Hagan said he would not respond to every paragraph of the original article but called it "incorrect" as a whole. O'Hagan also said Pollock "maintains transformation is the way to correct decades of oppression of black South Africans and marginalisation of black cricketers."

The clarification did not prevent strong criticism from former Test player and current Cobras coach Ashwell Prince in the Weekend Argus where Prince detailed his own struggles across a two-decade long career.

"Pollock's comments most definitely struck a nerve. Not just with myself, but it seems the overwhelming majority of South Africans. Quite frankly, as a former Protea, one has reached the point where you simply just cannot sit back and allow people with these kind of mindsets to keep feeding the world this kind of rubbish and just let it be," Prince said.

"People who were disadvantaged under the previous political regime simply have to be given opportunities which in the past were reserved for a privileged minority."

South Africa will have five players of colour in their side for the third Test against England at The Oval with Kagiso Rabada's return following his suspension. They fielded four at Trent Bridge with JP Duminy dropped, but with the targets being assessed over a whole season whether they have been met or not for 2017-18 will not be known until after the home summer against Bangladesh, India and Australia.