Faf du Plessis feels that his side is 99% of the way to where they want to be, ahead of the Cricket World Cup in just over two months’ time.
Du Plessis cut a relaxed figure after the third one-day international at Kingsmead eventually ended in victory for the Proteas, confirming a series win.
“Today, collectively, that was a proper batting performance. Very proud of the batters for the way they played. And, again, we strike with the new ball,” he said of Kagiso Rabada and Lungi Ngidi doing the business upfront.
There were a lot of positives to be gleaned from the display in Durban, not least the exceptional form that Quinton de Kock keeps on producing.
“He puts bowlers under pressure. He hits good balls for four,” Du Plessis assessed of the pocket rocket atop his order.
A De Kock in the mood can take apart any attack, and Sri Lanka have looked hapless at times, as he cut them to shreds.
If he can bottle up that form, South Africa will be a dangerous side in the World Cup.
They will hurt good attacks, even without the AB De Villiers effect that some quarters insist is imperative.
“We don’t want to be a team that relies on one player. AB was a wonderful player, but there was that sense that he was still coming in,” Du Plessis pointed out.
That reliance on De Villiers to deliver might have been a hindrance at previous ICC events, but Du Plessis is pleased to see that his run factory is fully functional.
He and De Kock have been in fine fettle all summer, while Rassie van der Dussen has seamlessly slotted in wherever needed.
David Miller has played within himself, often due to circumstances, while Andile Phehlukwayo and Dwaine Pretorius both had important contributions.
Du Plessis noted the strides Phehlukwayo had made with the bat, and how important his improvement has been for the balance of the team.
The Proteas now welcome back three massive names in Messrs Amla, Duminy and Markram. They all have reasons to play, and somehow the pack must be shuffled accordingly.
If someone else could adequately keep wicket, De Kock would surely be sent home to rest after a quite exceptional summer. Rassie van der Dussen was a thought for some, and the next two games are as ideal an opportunity to test that option as any.
For now, though, it looks extremely likely that the scintillating southpaw will keep landing South Africa’s heavy blows upfront. In Port Elizabeth, and then Cape Town, Du Plessis and his men will go about locating the one percent still missing from their World Cup requ irements.
It’s all about small margins now.
SQUAD: Faf du Plessis (capt), Hashim Amla, Quinton de Kock, JP Duminy, Imran Tahir, Aiden Markram, David Miller, Lungi Ngidi, Anrich Nortje, Andile Phehlukwayo, Dwaine Pretorius, Kagiso Rabada, Tabraiz Shamsi, Dale Steyn, Rassie van der Dussen.