The Proteas may have moved on from the south east of England to the rugby-crazed land of JPR Williams, Barry John and more recently Shane Williams, but AB de Villiers seems to have come with them.
After coach Ottis Gibson and captain Faf du Plessis explained the details surrounding De Villiers’ exclusion from the Proteas’ World Cup squad in Southampton, it was now the turn of Rassie van der Dussen.
It certainly was an uncomfortable situation for the 30-year-old Highveld Lions batsman, who is virtually the direct replacement for De Villiers in the United Kingdom. However, Van der Dussen acquitted himself well, saying that he believed he was capable of winning games for South Africa.
“I wasn’t surprised that he (De Villiers) wanted to make a comeback. Obviously the media reports a lot on AB, and judging by what he said over the last year, I wasn’t surprised. The thing biggest players all have in common is that they want to perform on the biggest stage,” Van der Dussen said.
“In terms of did it affect me? No! I am quite happy to be mentioned in the same sentence as AB, because he is obviously among the best there ever has been. But do I have to replace him? No, I don’t think I have to. Can I play a match-winning innings for my country? I believe I can. I don’t think it had an effect on me like people think it did.”
SA will certainly hope Van der Dussen can transfer this on-field confidence to the pitch over the course of the next five games. He is currently SA’s highest run-scorer at the World Cup, and been hugely consistent since coming into the Proteas team at the beginning of the summer, but Van der Dussen will need to raise his level of performance even more. Being forced into a corner where only five successive victories can offer the Proteas some form of hope of progressing to the semi-finals, the stakes could not be any higher. But Van der Dussen wouldn’t have it any other way.
“We have five quarter-finals. That’s how we are looking at it. We know what we need to do. Pressure is nothing new. If someone thought there wasn’t pressure, let there be a newsflash to him: there is pressure,” he said.
“A lot of the times I think people downplay it and steer away from it. But from my point of view, I know it’s a big occasion. In the last three games we just haven’t been at our best. It wasn’t due to pressure. We know it must click, but we also have to make it click,” Van der Dussen said.