Mark Boucher has placed his focus on building the confidence of the Proteas players and getting them to look forward after what has been a tumultuous period for the national team and the sport in general in this country.
The squad has been put through its paces in blazing heat in Centurion this week, packing two extended sessions into a day as they look to play catch-up in terms of their preparation ahead of the first Test against England that starts at SuperSport Park on Boxing Day.
Boucher has had to rapidly re-arrange his own life cancelling a family break in St Francis to put together schedules for the squad for what is one of the biggest challenges of his career.
“We’ve been through some tough times in this country but we are very resilient,” said the 43 year old, who played 147 Tests and still holds the record for the most Test dismissals by a wicketkeeper, 555. Since an enforced retirement from playing, Boucher has transitioned to coaching and for the last three seasons has headed up the Titans, where he has won five trophies.
The Titans have always been a confident team and it is the area in which the Proteas are lacking currently.
This year has been a terrible year for the men’s national team - the Test side has lost its last five matches, while the World Cup campaign is best forgotten.
“If we are honest with ourselves, our side has a lack of confidence and it’s about getting the confidence back,” Boucher said yesterday.
“The one thing we have promised ourselves in that dressing room is that what has happened in the past, is not the burden for this team to carry. It’s a new change, new coaching staff, new faces in the dressing room, we can’t look behind we have to look to the future.”
Boucher and interim Director of Cricket, Graeme Smith, have roped in Charl Langeveldt as bowling coach, while Jacques Kallis’ role as a batting consultant has, according to Boucher and skipper Faf du Plessis, already borne fruit.
“There is some great knowledge in the dressing room, there is good knowledge going through one communication channel which is ideal. Ultimately our role as coaches, is to create an environment for these guys to go out there and play their best cricket.”
That kind of environment, according to Du Plessis, has been difficult to create in the last six months, primarily because he was leading such an inexperienced squad.
The retirements of AB de Villiers, Morne Morkel, Hashim Amla and Dale Steyn, all within 18 months, meant there were very few senior voices in the dressing room, something that was particularly apparent in India where South Africa’s performances became rapidly worse as the three-match series unfolded. “The last few days have been exceptional if you could just hear the conversations that’s taking place; for instance in a batting group with Boucher and Kallis, just unbelievable conversations,” Du Plessis remarked.
“When you don’t have experience with the players, you need to substitute that with your management and I think we have done that very, very well.
“To have Jacques Kallis talking to batters about what they are trying to do at practice, then asking the batsmen what they think the opposition bowlers are trying to do or how are you putting together your first 20 balls those things are just absolute gold,” Du Plessis added.
* Meanwhile England have called up Dominic Bess and Craig Overton as cover due to a flu bug crippling their squad, most notably the bowlers, including Stuart Broad, Jofra Archer and Jack Leach.