Faf has to make his men merry again
But that will be no easy task for the Proteas’ skipper after the absolute pounding they took in the first Test at Lord’s
NOTTINGHAM’S most famous son led a band known as the ‘Merry Men’ charging around the local forests taking from the wealthy and giving to those who weren’t so well off.
If legend is to be believed, Robin Hood was a flamboyant sort, beloved by the ordinary citizenry and by his own merry men. Faf du Plessis certainly is held in similar high esteem by his men, but whether Robin ever faced as big a test of his leadership as Du Plessis has faced this week is doubtful.
As a Test captain he already carries his fair share of responsibility and yesterday he admitted he felt the need to take on even more in the absence of coach Russell Domingo, who had to return to South Africa following his mother’s death. JULY 14 2017
“That stuff that’s been going wrong off the field, is not stuff you can plan for – they’re unforeseen circumstances. I didn’t expect (my) baby to come a little earlier, Russell’s not planned for the tragedy with his family, and then KG (Rabada’s suspension) ... this is a huge character test for us.”
Comparisons were drawn with the build up to the third Test against Australia in Adelaide when there was also a lot of distraction for the players. On that occasion, the team had already won the series – here they’re 1-0 down, they’re without a key member of the attack and there are concerns over their batting.
That’s plenty for any captain to take on board and there are a lot of expectations about how Du Plessis will engineer a turnaround in South Africa’s fortunes.
“It feels like a normal game for me. I just feel there was more required from me this week to step up and make sure I lead the team the way I’ve been doing. The stuff I’ve been saying, the stuff we’ve been doing has not been different than before. It’s about making the players understand they can trust our processes that we’ve been doing the last while.
“We’ve been really successful at Test cricket, we understand where we made mistakes in the first game, it’s about how well we respond to that. There are a lot of references we can take ... that Australian series, there was a lot of tests for us as a team, it’s about knowing we can do it, and going into the next game and doing it.”
Du Plessis acknowledged it would be tougher for the South Africans in the second Test because England now also had confidence on their side after winning at Lord’s.
“There were a lot of times England found themselves under pressure, the disappointing thing was how easily they got out of it,” said Du Plessis
“We didn’t take our chances. Catches will be dropped, that’s not the issue, it’s how you respond to them and we didn’t do that well. After lunch on the first day, watching from the side, I could see it was a little too easy for England. When they threw a punch back at us we just sat back and let it happen and expecting something to change and it never did. That’s where we let the game slip.”
JP Duminy was dropped from the starting XI for the first time in a year, following a string of inconsistent performances which have seen him average just 34 in his last 12 Tests.
Duanne Olivier will play his second Test as Rabada’s replacement while South Africa were going to give some more thought to who to select between Theunis de Bruyn and Chris Morris. That decision would be based on conditions. The pitch appeared to have a lush grass covering and this venue does have a reputation of giving seamers assistance.
England captain Joe Root, confirmed the home team will play the same 11 as the one that won by 211 runs at Lord’s. New Cape Town City coach Benni McCarthy spoke with great enthusiasm and much satisfaction as he reflected on his first two weeks as a head coach.
A legend as a footballer, having gone from Seven Stars on the Cape Flats to European success with teams such as Ajax Amsterdam, Celta Vigo, FC Porto, Blackburn Rovers and West Ham United, the 39-year-old from Hanover Park took the plunge last month and stepped into the City coaching job vacated by Eric Tinkler.
The City players returned for pre-season training last week – and McCarthy, in his usual ebullient manner, has tackled the task with the very same gusto he did as a player.
“Training has been very good,” he said. “The players have given me a lot more than I bargained for. The intensity was high and the quality very good.
“I can assure you that the players are making my job very difficult. Everybody has been fantastic. Last season, there were players who were regulars and they did well by finishing the season in third position. But I can tell that those who were not too involved last season have also given me much more than I expected. Boy, am I going to have a tough time to pick a starting 11. It’s going to be headache after headache …
“But, as a coach, it’s the best headache to have when players are working hard and fighting for positions. The commitment, the effort, I have been very impressed.”
McCarthy is in possession of a Uefa A coaching licence and is in the process of completing his Pro Licence (the highest coaching qualification in Europe). His only previous experience in coaching has been a stint as assistant-coach to Chris O’Loughlin at Belgian side Sint Truiden. While the former Bafana Bafana striker may not have much experience as a coach, he continues to live by the philosophy that “everybody has to start somewhere”.
And, as he embarks on his City coaching sojourn, he admits that the experience at Sint Truiden was important in making him understand the rigours and challenges of coaching, and just how different it is to being a player.
“The assistant job in Belgium prepared me for what to expect as a coach,” he said. “I saw first-hand the things that players don’t get to see‚ like the hard work behind the scenes‚ the tactical analysis‚ having to study and analyse games‚ your own players and the opponents, and the involved process in preparing for games. As a player, when training is over, you go home; as a coach, when training is over, your job is just starting.
“At City, now as the head coach, at this stage of the season, my biggest challenge is to manage the demands of the players with regard to training loads. Some have come back from holiday, while some have been away with national teams. So the players have to be treated differently, you cannot just work everyone hard, and then run the risk of them breaking down later in the season. I’m working very closely with the fitness coach, who has given me information on the history of the players’ fitness needs. We are working through all of these issues and handling it as a group, as a team.”
Earlier this week, City signed 34-year-old Teko Modise from Mamelodi Sundowns, and McCarthy couldn’t contain his elation at having the opportunity to work with the former Bafana Bafana midfielder.
“Teko is one of the country’s iconic players,” he said. “He has been around the block and played at the highest level, even at the World Cup. He has been there, done that, and has numerous Bafana caps to his name. The team he played for previously is today the best in Africa, and that should tell you that City have signed a winner.
“The younger players, too, will be able to learn from Teko’s experience and professionalism.”