TELFORD VICE, Perth
THE season has barely started but SA are already having far more fun than they did in 2015-16.
Then, they lost five of their eight tests in series against India and England.
Now, they are going into a test series against Australia on the wings of the confidence earned by beating New Zealand 1-0 in August and, in particular, the 5-0 hiding they handed their Aussies in a one-day rubber in SA earlier in October.
What has turned things around so successfully?
“It’s the culture inside the team,” Dale Steyn said on Sunday.
“We had this camp two or three months ago where we got everything sorted out again.
“We seemed to be playing for no reason and things can drift along when you don’t really know ‘what are we doing?’
“So we re-set our goals of what we wanted to achieve and where we wanted to go and made some short-term goals and some long-term goals and we’re starting to tick those boxes again.
“I felt like up until the 2015 World Cup, we had planned up to that point and then everyone kind of just disappeared and we didn’t quite have a goal or anything in mind.
“We knew we wanted to go to Bangladesh (last July, when rain ruined the test series and the home side won the ODIs), but did we really know what we wanted to do? – no, we didn’t.
“We sat down for a couple of days, put that all together and dissected it and decided that this is what we’re going to do and we’re starting to tick those boxes again.
“Obviously we see this tour on that list, and if we can tick that box and win this series then we’re definitely going in the right direction.”
So well have SA righted themselves that they have beaten New Zealand and Australia without the injured AB de Villiers, who will also be missing in action in the test series that starts in Perth on Thursday.
“You’re always going to have big players coming out of the team for injuries or some new guy stepping in,” Steyn said.
“I remember when we came here eight years ago Ashwell (Prince) was a major player for us and he broke his finger.
“JP (Duminy) stepped up, hit the winning runs in Perth and went on to score 166 in Melbourne.
“I think the culture in the side is one that when a new player steps into the side we want him to automatically throw out those big scores or put out those big performances with the ball.
“That’s what we really focus on. When you lose a player like AB it’s a massive loss but we saw that a player like Rilee (Rossouw) got his chance … (in first ODI against Australia) and ended up being man of the series.”
Rossouw, a squad replacement for De Villiers, initially cracked the nod when Hashim Amla was ruled out through illness.
He scored half-centuries in the first two matches and hammered a century in the last game – a stunning repayment of faith that earned him selection in the test squad.
“He wasn’t even supposed to play in the series, so we really focus on the culture and how welcome we make players feel when they step into that side so they can perform at their best,” Steyn said.