To add to the pressure, it is players that are not going to the World Cup – Morne van Wyk and David Wiese spring readily to mind – who have produced the most impressive recent performances.
The likes of Farhaan Behardien, Kyle Abbott and Wayne Parnell had poor returns in the T20 series against the West Indies and they will be desperate to go to Australasia with some success under their belts.
Apart from getting out-of-form players back into nick, captain AB de Villiers also needs to discover how best to marshal his resources during the five ODIs against the West Indies.
Chris Gayle had a grand old time against the South African back-up bowlers in the T20s, which merely highlights the pressure on Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel and Vernon Philander.
Given that South Africa’s main weakness is their bowling, it was strange to see the balance of the team for yesterday’s match against the West Indies: There were only four frontline bowlers – the three pacemen and spinner Imran Tahir – meaning JP Duminy and Farhaan Behardien had to bowl 10 overs between them.
Duminy has just come out of mothballs and so it may take him a while to regain his best bowling form, while at Behardien’s pace there is absolutely no room for error, particularly when he gets to the good batting pitches in Australia.
But that balance makes South Africa extremely vulnerable – teams are undoubtedly going to target the fifth bowling pair of Duminy and Behardien and, if one other bowler has a bad day, then the Proteas will be seriously derailed in the field.
Which is why I believe the selectors have erred in not including a genuine all-rounder in the squad. Wiese brings megawatts of hitting power and is also a canny bowler, while even Ryan McLaren, without being spectacular, is a decent all-rounder.
For those suggesting Parnell should fill the all-rounder’s berth, I would just smile and say ‘no thanks’. For all the talent the left-hander possesses and so-called X-factor, he has battled to perform with any consistency at international level and cannot be relied upon.
Philander has been touted as a possible number seven batsman and has been in good form with the bat in the Test arena, averaging 45 in 2014, and the strength of South Africa’s batting line-up might just make that the best option.
De Villiers, Faf du Plessis and Hashim Amla have all been superb in ODIs over the last year, scoring 10 centuries between them and all averaging over 50, while Quinton de Kock and JP Duminy have both proven their ability at international level, while David Miller can be as destructive as anyone on his day.
But listening to De Villiers’ gung-ho proclamations that South Africa will have the best team at the World Cup, one wonders whether he has identified the key areas of weakness in his side. No captain will ever highlight those weaknesses of course, but South Africa have not been the number one ranked ODI side for any length of time since 2009. They were on top of the pile last October after beating New Zealand away from home, but they were quickly deposed by Australia in November.
Very little has changed since then, except the Proteas have slid further down the rankings to third.