DURBAN: Stand-in South Africa Test captain Faf du Plessis admitted Thursday that his team had been “scarred” by their mauling on spin-friendly pitches in India last year.
Du Plessis, who has replaced injured AB de Villiers, said South Africa would be looking to make a fresh start in the first of two Tests against New Zealand, starting at Kingsmead Friday.
South Africa started the India series as the number one Test team but have slipped to seventh after losing 3-0 against India and 2-1 at home against England, as well as losing points from past triumphs.
“India was tough for us and it left a few scars,” said Du Plessis.
“I think Australia are in the same position against Sri Lanka (where they were beaten 3-0 in a Test series).
“Before that series we were a powerhouse batting unit. It had an effect on all of us.”
Du Plessis said it took most of the four-match series against England to shake off the effects of India.
“But this is a new season and a new series and hopefully we can get off to a good start.”
Du Plessis said the South Africans were well aware that they had fallen short of their best standards last season.
“We have had some honest feedback on where we want to go and where we fell short.”
The feedback had included an acknowledgement that complacency might have crept in during their three years as the number one side.
“We maybe fell into some traps because we were playing well and could almost leave it to be. We need to challenge each other every day, from the coaching staff right through to the guy carrying the drinks.”
Du Plessis said the return of bowling kingpins Dale Steyn and Vernon Philander would make a “huge” difference to the South African attack, but added that New Zealand would be tough opponents.
“They have been playing good cricket and we will have to play well to beat them.”
New Zealand captain Kane Williamson said adapting to different conditions would be key for his team, who beat Zimbabwe on placid surfaces in two matches played before arriving in South Africa.
“Adapting is a big part of the international game,” said Williamson. “Coming here from Zimbabwe we are expecting different conditions and, obviously, different opposition.
“South Africa are always regarded as one of the strongest teams in the world and playing them in their backyard is a big challenge.
“But we know that when we play our best cricket we can compete and beat anyone, so that’s very much our focus.”
Both Williamson and Du Plessis said they were not sure what to expect from the pitch, with cricket not usually played in South Africa in August, at least a month before cricket normally gets under way.
“Both teams go in a little bit blind,” said Williamson. “It looks a bit tacky but looks a pretty good surface.”
Williamson said the team management would take a closer look at the pitch after a practice before deciding whether to play two spinners, as they had in Zimbabwe, or pick an extra seam bowler.
He said the batting line-up was likely to remain unchanged.