TELFORD VICE, Cape Town
FAF du Plessis has dispelled any talk of the ghosts of the 2015 World Cup semi-final swirling around the odd angles of Eden Park when New Zealand and South Africa play a T20 there on Friday.
Du Plessis took the direct approach when the question came, inevitably, at the first press conference of South Africa’s tour in Auckland on Monday.
“There will be mixed feelings going back there,” Du Plessis said.
“Something like that, you’ll always carry it with you.
“As a team we’ve definitely put it behind us, but the emotions of that day will always be with us. That’s not a bad thing.
“Although we were on the wrong side of the result it was a great day of cricket and something that will always be with us.”
The scorebook from that match says Du Plessis and AB de Villiers scored half-centuries in South Africa’s decent total of 281/6 in the 43 overs their innings was reduced to by rain.
But New Zealand won by four wickets when Grant Elliott, who scored an unbeaten 84, smashed the penultimate ball of the match over Dale Steyn’s head for six.
What the scorebook doesn’t say is that South Africa’s mental state was dealt a shuddering blow before the game by interference in team selection by Cricket South Africa (CSA).
The suits demanded that another player of colour be picked.
So Kyle Abbott, South Africa’s best bowler in the tournament, made way and the integrity of Vernon Philander, who had struggled with a hamstring injury for much of the competition and whose form had suffered as a consequence, was sacrificed.
CSA at first denied their involvement but admitted to it under mounting pressure in the press.
The effects of the defeat and its circumstances rocked the national team, who lost five of the eight tests they played the next season.
Now, having won their last 11 one-day internationals at home, South Africa are ready to take their show onto the road.
“We’ve got a nice thing going at home and it’s important when you come to a place like New Zealand, who have a quality one-day team and a really good record at home as well, to have all the confidence and momentum on your side,” Du Plessis said.
South Africa are likely to need those factors, and others, to be in their favour against a Kiwi outfit who have won 26 of their last 30 ODIs at home.