Statistically, South Africa are not out of the tournament yet. But Faf du Plessis realises it would take a near miraculous set of circumstances to put them in the semi-finals. Not only would they have to win each of their three remaining games - probably by gigantic margins - but a host of other results, rain-abandonments included, would have to go their way.

"You know, it's tough now," du Plessis said after the loss to New Zealand. "You can feel in the dressing room the guys are hurting. I'm feeling five years older. My body is really sore after that. So we left everything out there, and that's all I can ask for as a captain, that the guys fought. They showed that.

"Unfortunately, we've just not been as good as the opposition that we've played against. New Zealand today was a little bit better than us. That's a skill thing - not a hunger thing. That's not a determination thing. That's not a fight thing. So I can't fault the team for that."

So where did South Africa go wrong? Tough catches were dropped, and run outs were missed, during their defence of 242. But it was the batting that truly let itself down, as has been the case right through the tournament, he said. South Africa's top score in their four completed matches so far is Quinton de Kock's 68 in the tournament opener against England.

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"We batted through a tough time getting partnerships together, then we lose a wicket, then we batted again and got the partnership together - it was a lot of stop-start. With that, you lose out on 15, 20 runs, and that's what we were saying in the dressing room the whole time. We were trying to get to 260 or 270. That would be a really good score.

"We did well in parts today. The wicket wasn't as flat as you would have thought it would be. Those first 15 overs felt exactly like Auckland - the ball was hooping around corners there. So we felt like we did the hard work, and we thought it would be easy after that, but they kept getting a wicket every time there was a 50 or 60-run partnership. You need that to go to 100, and you need one guy to bat through the innings. You need someone to get 100 plus, and that gives you that 15, 20 more runs."

"When I speak about putting your hand up and putting performances in, I point my finger as us as a unit. Certainly, I need to be the leading run scorer in our batting unit with Quinton de Kock probably."

South Africa have three more matches to play in the tournament, but as they are essentially now out of contention for the knockouts, thoughts will begin to turn to building for the next World Cup. Imran Tahir - their best ODI spinner ever - had already announced that he would retire after this tournament. There are several other players, du Plessis included, who may be fighting to get through the next four years, in order to compete in the World Cup in India. Du Plessis' captaincy will also be under scrutiny.

"You're probably got three or four guys getting away from the ODI team, with quite a few guys getting to the end of their careers," du Plessis said. "Depending on cricket South Africa - in terms of what they believe is a good way forward - they might want a complete change.

"But those are things you sit down and talk about. We've got some young players, so there's a future there. The young guys, I've really backed them this tournament. I think they've got a great future ahead of them. Rassie van der Dussen has shown that he's the real deal. I think he's got leadership capabilities as well. He's standing up to be a strong man in a big tournament for us. Andile Phehlukwayo has done well as a young guy. Aiden Markram - we know the kind of player he is. He showed signs today that he can do it.

"What will naturally happen is you'll probably lose six or seven players after this tournament. Whether you want to change more than that - no, I don't think you need to do more than that."