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ICC CRICKET WORLD CUP

June 4, 2019

Faf du Plessis Mohammed Moosajee

Southampton, England, UK

MOHAMMED MOOSAJEE: Good afternoon, everybody. The good news is that Hashim Amla is cleared to play.

Everyone has seen the release regarding Dale Steyn. At the outset, Dale's case has been unique. We know that upon his return from the IPL due to shoulder discomfort, he had numerous scans done which didn't reveal anything of significance, aside from chronic, what we call inflammatory changes involving the tendons of the shoulder.

He was seen by three of South Africa's top orthopaedic specialists, shoulder specialists, and we were reassured by the expert opinions that Dale was clear to play.

His rehab and fitness regime continued at pace and the focus was to get him up to speed for the tournament. The plan was always to get him ready for the second or third game of the World Cup.

However, upon our arrival into the UK, once he started bowling, a different problem emerged, what we call a shoulder impingement syndrome, and he consulted with an orthopaedic specialist in London a few days ago.

He had an injection inserted into the problematic area which unfortunately did not resolve the symptoms. So a decision was made to replace him.

The champion bowler that Dale is, every effort was made to give him all the opportunity to recover and be ready for this tournament.

With both Anrich Nortje and Vernon Philander unavailable due to injury, the selectors also allowed him the extra time to recover. But unfortunately, this was not to be. Thank you.

Q. Doctor, the release says that he won't be bowling for the foreseeable future. How long do you think it will take? Can you see him coming back?
MOHAMMED MOOSAJEE: I think he will be coming back. The challenge is to get him back home, to get him to see his rehab team, the focus will be very much on strengthening work around the shoulder, as we can well understand the shoulder is a complicated joint which moves into different plains. And once he gets the mobility in his shoulder close to where he was previously, I'm sure there's every effort that he can come back.

Q. Doctor, when Beuran will arrive?
MOHAMMED MOOSAJEE: He is on a flight today so will arrive tomorrow morning.

Q. It's in the same area. Did you have to do any explanation because it's in the same area and if he is coming in with that injury the rules suggest you can't replace someone who comes in with an injury?
MOHAMMED MOOSAJEE: The interesting thing with the shoulder is that it involves a lot of structures in the shoulder, so the current pathology is unrelated to what we were concerned about before we arrived into the UK. And we've obviously needed to get an independent opinion on that which we did.

Q. Lungi Ngidi had a scan yesterday. What was the outcome of that?
MOHAMMED MOOSAJEE: Lungi's scan confirmed our clinical diagnosis. He has a grade one strain of a muscle involved in his left hamstring. The clinical return to play picture is usually seven to 10 days. So our physiotherapist is working hard on Lungi currently to get him ready, hopefully, for the next game. If not the next game, probably the game against Afghanistan in Cardiff.

Q. Faf, so much has happened over the last few days. As the leader of this group, where do you see yourself in terms of -- you spoke about motivating and then almost harsh words in a sense. Where are you at the moment?
FAF DU PLESSIS: Me, personally, or the team?

Q. Both.
FAF DU PLESSIS: Both. It is really important that at a time like this obviously, like you are saying, a lot is happening. There's a lot of injuries. Zero from two.

So for myself, it's really important to stay strong. The team will feed off my energy and they will look up to the leadership group in the team. But I'm at the top of that so it is important that I stay positive, I stay strong, make sure I keep motivating the guys.

The nature of this tournament -- you can see there is a lot of teams that are challenging each other on any different day, so there is still hope for us. We have a lot of cricket left. Before we got here it was like six games, that's almost the par of what you want to try and get. So for now, it's me really staying strong and positive and making sure that the team feeds off that.

Naturally guys will have a little bit of confidence that's been chucked away and that is normal, that is part of being human. But it's just making sure that we keep strong, keep fighting and stay true to ourselves as a team and a culture.

Q. What does the loss of Dale mean to the team?
FAF DU PLESSIS: As I said, injuries are absolutely never part of what you want to do when you come to a tournament like this. I have said to you guys so many times that our X Factor as a team is going to depend on how brilliant our bowling attack is. At the moment, the height factors that Lungi and Dale, as two of those players that are not on the field.

We haven't had one game where we've had our strongest 11 playing on the field yet. So that is challenging. But, unfortunately, you don't get a pass for having injuries. You still have to make sure your squad is strong enough. You try and plan to have back-up plans for when you do have one or two injuries.

Obviously, it's a bit more than we have hoped and that changes everything for us from a balance point of view, but we still have to get on the park and make sure we put in performances to make us as a team proud of it and also our country proud of.

Q. Faf, you say zero from two already, so do you feel tomorrow is make-or-break concerning the World Cup?
FAF DU PLESSIS: I said six games is the target, so with seven games left, it would be great if we can start that tomorrow. So, we have some -- there's no easy games anymore in a World Cup. We have seen that Bangladesh played unbelievable cricket the previous game. So, just now watching Afghanistan there. It looks like they are turning over Sri Lanka, so you have to be on top of your game.

And I think we need to try and start that tomorrow (smiling). But yes, six games are still the overall goal.

Q. Given everything that's happened, is it a case of nothing to lose going into tomorrow? Things can't get worse than they are now?
FAF DU PLESSIS: Thanks for that (laughter). Whether it is winning or losing, the main thing is getting to the semifinals. We haven't started well. So for me it's, like I said, after the previous match here, it is our skills that need to be upgraded. It is nothing else.

If we can deliver our skills, we will be in good positions. We will win games of cricket. At the moment, we haven't been there so, hopefully, it's a case of us getting better every game. If that is the case, great, we will start playing better cricket.

Q. Faf, the general trend so far has been to bowl first. You have done it. So what is the reason behind it? Is it the weather or the pitch? What do you think of the current pitch?
FAF DU PLESSIS: Previously, the two previous games, statistically when you play at The Oval the stats were quite in favour of bowling first. Starting at 10.30am, it's genuinely the thinking. As I said the previous game, there was a lot of discussion regarding the toss. Actually, that I could lose the toss, I was that unsure. That didn't happen.

Looking back on it now, when you are playing on a used pitch, and a team gets a score, and then you will change that decision straightaway. But I don't think there's any trend.

I think most of the guys think because it's a 10.30am start, there might be something in that first hour but there's not. We haven't discussed it, saying we have to bowl first or have to bat first.

We look at the wicket and then we have a lot of guys in our dressing room that's played a lot of cricket, county cricket, coached in county cricket, so our coach was with England for four or five years, so we tapped into his knowledge on conditions. I ask him a lot of questions when I'm not sure, and I rely on guys that are more sure than me on the day because you trust them being here more than me.

Q. Before the tournament, you emphasised the fact that bowling will be your strong point. The fact that half of that bowling attack is now either injured or gone completely. Within the parameter of the squad that you have already chosen, can you change your game plan and emphasise other strengths within the team?
FAF DU PLESSIS: We will have to re-look at that now. There's only 14 players to pick from now, so it's not, there's not a lot of options in terms of the bowling attack. Either you decide if you want to go with all your all-rounders in one team, and have a long batting line-up and try and change your game plan a little bit and bat up until nine and hopefully you can get a big score, chase anything because you have a lot of batting or the two spinners.

Obviously, this ground will -- I don't think spinners played that big a role but still Shammy is an attacking bowler for us, so those are the two options we are weighing up. There's not much other options.

Q. You said that you might be using harsh words. Did you have to use it? Secondly, with so many injuries with Steyn, Lungi, it could be almost understandable if there is a sense of self-pity come into some of the youngsters. How are you addressing that as well?
FAF DU PLESSIS: I addressed more of that angle. For me, the natural thing that happens in a team like that is you find that your confidence goes down and naturally younger guys in the team coming to their first World Cup they will potentially go into their self-pity cycle.

So, for me, it was strong words in the sense that that won't be allowed over the next couple of days. It is important for us to stay strong at this time. If you do slightly go away from that, then as a team you can crumble and unfortunately, we are not in a position where we can afford that.

We can't control results. We can't control the outcome of the game. What we can control is how strong we are mentally. How well we are training. What sort of language are we using in the dressing room. Is it positive? For me, that was more the main focus, making sure that the guys are still saying the right things in the team, not questioning themselves because then it's a slippery slope. Then you are just keep going further and further backwards.

Q. Faf, Rabada's called Kohli 'immature' in the run-up to this game and says he can't take abuse. Do you think that might come back to haunt him? Also you when you play?
FAF DU PLESSIS: A lot of other things are haunting me at the moment (smiling). I don't know the context of that, what was said in that article. I think it was mentioned in the IPL. So, for me to comment on that, not sure what the context was.

Virat is a great player. Virat, whether you say something bad into the media, or you say something good, he is still going to rock up a good player at the match. I don't think that makes too much of a difference.

Q. I'm sure it is an obvious answer. How is Dale doing?
FAF DU PLESSIS: It is important for us to be strong for him. Dale has struggled really hard to get back into the team. It's been a tough two-year, two-and-a-half years for him and he would need support right now. It's important that us as the team and the management make sure there's things in place for him to assist him, to be there for him. He needs love at the moment.

It's a tough time for him. He's tried really hard to get fit for this campaign. He was bowling unbelievably well in the lead-up to this tournament and the IPL he was at his best. Unfortunately, it happened there in the IPL in those two games that he played there.

If he didn't get picked up to go to the IPL, who knows where Dale would have been right now. We can't control that. So it is important for me that we make sure that we are there for him because I know he's been trying hard to make sure he is ready to try and make an impact on which will be his last World Cup.

Q. Will Dale be staying with the team and also did he come to the team management with the decision about his shoulder? Was it in his mind to make a decision now with all the injuries?
FAF DU PLESSIS: I think he's going home soon. Just waiting on arrangements so he won't be staying with the team. Yeah, the process has been from the beginning that there would need to be some cut-off time for Dale, to be fair to the rest of the squad, to be fair to picking players that are available out of the 15.

And Dale, the management gave him that extended period of time because it is Dale Steyn and you want to give him as long as possible. Even him being ready for the next game or the game after that would still be a huge asset for us as a team.

The medical decision was made that because his shoulder was weak after bowling and he couldn't really get a second spell in again that it would be very challenging to get him at full 100 percent match intensity to be ready for a World Cup game so a decision was made, yeah. And by the medical group and the coach to say look, they feel that that time has run out.

Q. Faf, you have led by example your whole career and I don't think it is very difficult to get your players to follow you. Something like this, the Dale thing and the results, the other injuries, this is a hell of a test for your leadership. How are you managing that test?
FAF DU PLESSIS: As I said, I have to front up to it. I remember you asking me before the World Cup, it's probably not our strongest team that we have ever had coming here and is it the right or the wrong time. That's not my choice.

My position that I'm in is I'm the captain of the team right now and players are looking for someone to lead them. So all I can do is try my absolute best to try and do that. Once again, that doesn't mean results. I wish it did. Because then it would be great (laughter).

For me, I'm trying to make sure I stay positive for the team, I stay strong, encourage other guys in the team, other leaders in the group to also stay strong.

At no stage in the game can we as a senior player group look like we are down-and-out. It is not an option for us. We are a very, very proud cricketing nation. So, no matter how bad it gets, how good it gets, I will keep driving that.

Q. Obviously, it is in retrospect, but do you kind of feel that South Africa put all their eggs in one basket with the fast-bowling strategy? And if you could clear up -- there seemed to be a bit of confusion at the end of the Bangladesh game in the death overs about yorkers and what length the guys should be bowling. What message were you giving to the bowlers in those last five overs?
FAF DU PLESSIS: I will start with that second part. Yeah, I thought the balls up to that last five overs, the bowlers were excellent. They were probably going at a run a ball on a good wicket. By just staying back off a length.

So I think... Not I think, I know. The plan was with a big side of the boundary to make sure you have three options. There was the discussions between me and the bowlers. And those three options are the same always.

It is important not to be lined up as a bowler, so with every field that you set, or that I set towards a bowler, there is an option of taking three balls and on that particular long boundary, yorkers are always still an option. Yorkers, pace off the ball and bumper which were the three options. We over-relied on the fact that we could just bowl back of a length and slower balls.

There was, as I said after the game, there was -- -G had a chance to take a catch on the boundary which he missed and if he took that, it would have been a whole different story. Then one went over David's head. So the plan was, the plan is never to go one thing. There's always three options that a bowler has that he can execute with any different field, so, in hindsight, yes, a few yorkers would have been a better option. What was your first part?

Q. Eggs all in one basket.
FAF DU PLESSIS: As you can see right now, there is a plan in place for the worst case scenario, which is losing our bowling attack. Now you have to go back to your all-rounders which is, which we felt has been our strategy in the past.

As I said, the last time we came here, the previous Champions' Trophy with a lot of all-rounders, Parnell, Morris, guys like that. So we batted seven, eight, nine. So we are back to that now, back to that option. We have a lot of all-rounders and not a lot of specialists. So I think we have planned for it.

As I said, we didn't plan to lose Lungi, but that's obviously happened now, so we still have got enough options.

Q. Faf, there is a lot of talk about are you going to leave the side, what you are going to do, the side are nought from two, they are playing India tomorrow. It's probably their biggest game. Does anybody need to be spoken to in that dressing room to get up for tomorrow?
FAF DU PLESSIS: Naturally, what happens is that you have to manage people's confidence because that's the thing, especially after the last game, as professional cricketers, we want to do well and win games and we don't want to go zero from two, so that is the big thing that I picked up. That is important that we don't go take a left turn into negative town (smiling). Stay positive, stay strong, make sure we keep pushing, but we are playing probably the world's No. 2 team at the moment, or tomorrow, and then it's going to be a huge challenge.

But something we have always been good at is when our backs are against the wall, we fight. So, hopefully, we will see a lot of that tomorrow and hopefully get a good result.

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