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Springboks need to walk before jumping in again

By Barry Richards

20 August 1998

'ALL for one and one for all'' has been the catchcry for South Africa since Hansie Cronje assumed the captain's mantle but it is wearing thin. Not because of any dissidents but through sheer volume of cricket.

South Africa peaked a month ago and since Robert Croft conjured up an unlikely draw at Old Trafford they have declined, not alarmingly, but enough to do some soul searching.

At the beginning of the summer, it was inconceivable that South Africa would not make today's one-day final. Their record over three years is very impressive and to lose the Test series as well has made it a disappointing tour altogether. There are no easy answers as to what went wrong, save to say it was a gradual decline from Old Trafford.

Niggling injuries, living together for long periods under pressure, indifferent umpiring and just too much cricket combined to make South Africa come unstuck. Couple this with England's new confidence and you have a team lacking the intensity which is so much a feature of their game.

The spark went out at the end of July and even though Jonty Rhodes in particular tried to reignite it, it was not to be. South Africa will be back home and before long new agendas will be discussed. Coaches, itineraries, retirements, technology and the batting will all be on the list.

Bob Woolmer has indicated the World Cup will be his last campaign so speculation around his successor as coach has already had an airing. Corrie van Zyl has proved an admirable No 2, especially as he is a former fast bowler who has empathy with the needs of the South African bowlers, but as yet he is unproven for the top job and its resultant spotlight.

Duncan Fletcher has done well with Western Province and Glamorgan and has a pedigree that stems from a strong cricket background. But there again so did Mike Procter, whose tenure was brief and departure acrimonious. It is a demanding job and whoever gets it will have two hard years because there is not only the cricket to be addressed but a wider brief which comes from having to spread the game to all South Africans.

Allan Donald, Pat Symcox and Brian McMillan, certainly, and Cronje possibly, will not tour England again after the World Cup, so there are places to be filled. Unfortunately, the younger players have not put forward a compelling case for inclusion.

Shaun Pollock is being groomed for the captaincy and will in time be the world's leading all-rounder. Batting, bowling and captaincy can enhance or destroy a player's reputation. Pollock will thrive on the challenge even though he has a more laid-back, but no less combative, style than Cronje. The pattern of play has been set hard. Discipline with teamwork is the ethos and a hallmark of why South Africa have played well. It will not change. Pollock will be sure to lead from the front.

If South Africa are really honest, they will say the batting let them down in the games that counted. Opening, in particular, is an area that seemed to set the pattern. It was never settled here and in the end had the opposite effect on Gary Kirsten, who felt the pressure of staying in rather than playing his natural game. Jacques Kallis and Daryll Cullinan played well on occasions but were less consistent than usual, while Rhodes, whose fielding is from another planet, and Cronje were the stars.

But there has to be more discipline in all of South Africa's batting. Being positive is admirable but it is not often that a good 20 or 30 has a great bearing on a five-day game. There will be periods where the bowlers dominate but the tide always turns and it is recognising and seizing these moments that is all-important.

The bowlers did well enough. Donald and Pollock are a great combination but once Donald decides he's had enough, the cupboard is a little bare. Makhaya Ntini and Nantie Hayward are young and fit but short of international class.

Paul Adams is desperately needed but he tailed off at the end once the 'mystery' action had been unravelled by the England batsmen. He needs to develop a delivery that regularly spins into the right-hander to be effective otherwise he will not get good players out and be relegated to bowling for maidens to give the faster bowlers a rest.

For the next year, South Africa should keep most of the team intact but age, albeit not old, and injury will test the fortitude. This is especially so now they have lost series against Australia and England, the ones they really wanted to win.

Source: The Electronic Telegraph
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Date-stamped : 20 Aug1998 - 10:25