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'That first week was really tough for us' - Faf du Plessis

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'We've let a lot of people down' - du Plessis (0:49)

After thumping Sri Lanka by nine wickets, South Africa captain Faf du Plessis said the victory felt "hollow" (0:49)

For only the second time in the tournament, South Africa's top order produced serious runs, and their bowlers knocked an opposition over cheaply, all in the same game. There's an obvious criticism here: Of course they are playing well. There was no pressure on them in this game.

Captain Faf du Plessis couldn't quite put his finger on why it took so long to claim a second win. But he did suggest that had South Africa had an easier schedule of matches in the first 10 days of the tournament, perhaps they would have had a different World Cup. Two of their first three matches were against England and India respectively, which means they were always likely to have accrued at least two defeats at that stage.

WATCH on Hotstar: Faf du Plessis' fluent 96* (India only)

But what if they had played Sri Lanka before they were already ruled out of the semi-finals? Of the last 10 matches between these sides, South Africa have won eight ODIs, losing only two dead rubbers in Sri Lanka last year.

"I think it is crucial, especially for a team like us in tournaments like these, that you need to start well," du Plessis said. "If you start well, your confidence in your team will grow and then from there, anything is possible. But to start the way we did, I mean you come here already with an expectation of needing to do well and then you go zero from three, and that expectation becomes a weight on your shoulders. That is a heavy burden to carry.

"That first week was was really tough for us. But that's the sport we play."

The Man-of-the-Match in the nine-wicket thumping of Sri Lanka was Dwaine Pretorius, who took three wickets and delivered what is till date the tournament's most economical 10 over analysis, conceding only 25 runs. It was Pretorius' second game of the tournament - he had not featured since the opener on May 30 - and beyond his inclusion, du Plessis couldn't work out what his team had done differently.

"I can't give you the answer why it [more success] hasn't happened before. Dwaine didn't play the previous games, so maybe in English conditions he worked really well today. Our thinking on this wicket was the slower the bowler, the harder it is to face, so it worked out perfectly that he was the guy that was going to be successful.

WATCH on Hotstar: Highlights of South Africa's thumping win over Sri Lanka (US only)

"And then with the bat, I have been saying it a lot, the guys have been batting well but only for short periods. And that's the basics of batting once again: if you get in, someone has to bat through the innings. Then it becomes easier. So, it's just probably doing the basics better today than we've done in the tournament."

Despite the margin of victory, though, it is very nearly a futile result for South Africa. Perhaps the only thing gained, is avoiding the indignity of finishing last in the league stage.

"It feels hollow," du Plessis said. "It's great winning, but it is very, very bittersweet because you know that we've let a lot of people down, and that was never the plan. So we will get together and we will enjoy the performance.

"But I think when you go back, there will still be that hollow feeling of things that could have been in this tournament."