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

The Star Early Edition - - SPORT -

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.”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa

© PressReader. All rights reserved.