Proteas coach Russell Domingo said on Tuesday upon his return to South Africa that the unity and resilience of the team had been the major factors in their stunning resurgence this year, highlighted by their Test series triumph in Australia.
“It’s been a combination of things and getting a few players back that we have missed a lot, like Vernon Philander and Dale Steyn, has made a massive difference. But the unity amongst the guys and the realisation of how important it is to play for your country has been very important.
“A few players have also come back into form, the team as a whole has got their confidence back, the belief has slowly been coming back, and although we’re not yet where I feel we can be, we’re heading in the right direction. This team prides itself on their resilience and we’re in a good space at the moment. We have to treasure and nurture that because things can change very quickly,” Domingo said at O.R. Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg.
A year ago, Domingo was fighting to keep his job, but a limited-overs series whitewash of Australia and then winning the Test series in their backyard means the 42-year-old is sitting pretty and able to enjoy the contract extension until August 2017 he received last month.
“Coaches, like players, are always learning in terms of preparation and support staff. I don’t know if there have been massive changes in the way we coach, but the players have really stepped up. We still put in the same hours and hours to get the best out of them,” Domingo said.
While praising the captaincy of Faf du Plessis, Domingo reiterated the official position that AB de Villiers will resume as skipper when he returns for the series against Sri Lanka next month.
“Faf has matured in great fashion as a leader and is an outstanding captain. Fortunately he’s found some good form with the bat as well, so he’s able to lead from the front. But the bottom line is that AB is the captain and the status quo is set to remain. He only had two Tests as captain of this side, and he lost one and won one against England, so he needs to have a full crack, with my unstinting support,” Domingo said.
Du Plessis confirmed that he had thoroughly enjoyed the captaincy and described the second day of the first Test in Perth, when the Proteas recovered so magnificently from the huge setback of losing bowling spearhead Dale Steyn, as his best day on a cricket field.
“If there was one specific incident that won us the series, it was the turnaround in Perth. The belief that the team took from that session, sparked by resilience, was out of this world and it took the team to a new level of confidence. It’s probably the best session I’ve been part of on a cricket field, the way everyone stood up after losing Dale, which was incredibly hard, the whole team felt it, but somehow they just made it possible to bounce back.
“I’ve always enjoyed the captaincy, I feel it does bring out the best in me, but AB knows that I am 100% behind him. I’ve learnt a lot about myself as a leader and the great thing is that the team has three guys – myself, Hashim Amla and AB – who have been captains and we are all very similar in the way we want the culture of the team to move forward,” du Plessis said.