Kirsten: Proteas play for badge

2012-12-05 12:05
Gary Kirsten (Gallo)

Check out a video of the Proteas triumphant return to SA.

Cape Town – A strong sense of national pride goes a long way to explaining South Africa’s ascension to No 1 Test side in the world and some keynote away series successes recently, says coach Gary Kirsten.

Speaking at a joint media briefing with captain Graeme Smith at Newlands here on Wednesday following the triumphant tour of Australia, Kirsten, who boasts 101 Test caps of his own over an 11-year period between 1993 and 2004, said: “This a team South Africa can be proud of.

“They go about their business in a very humble way and they’ve achieved success in different ways and in different conditions.

“They’re a very mature bunch of individuals ... they play for the Proteas badge in a way I’ve never seen before.”

Asked by Sport24 how good their prospects were, considering the current Test landscape worldwide, of staying top of the pile for a really significant period, he said: “It’s certainly something we’ve set our sights on.

“It’s been an incredible year and it requires time now for the players to reflect on it for a period – albeit very short because we’re playing again in a few weeks.

“We wanted to become No 1 team in the world and then to hold that position. We accomplished two very big targets this year which was England and Australia; just a massive performance from the players and now we will set our sights on how we can hold that position.

“It is important to us – we do want to leave a legacy behind. What this team has achieved over a pretty sustained period now has been nothing short of remarkable.

“Credit to the players for stepping up in high-pressure situations to not only save Test matches but also play the sort of dominant cricket we are capable of playing.”

Smith, asked to explain why his charges seemed to play more comfortably away from home than any other side, replied: “I think there’s a maturity around the group. Having the players to perform around the world is a key factor; the guys who have the games to adapt to all conditions.

“There’s a maturity in our preparation and knowledge of how to be successful away from home – that is the biggest thing.

“When you go to someone else’s country you’ve got to figure out ‘OK, how do we win here?’ and ‘how do I deal with the pressures of performing in front of their media, their crowds?’

“I think the group we’ve got has certainly handled that very, very well.”

Having dropped some hints at least a year ago that he was contemplating stepping down from the leadership at some point to focus solely on his batting for the first time in many years, Smith joked when asked if there had been a change of heart more recently.

“I was telling Gary I’ve also opened the batting too many times now and it is time to shift to No 5 (something Kirsten did at the tail-end of his career) soon!

“But on a serious note, I’m not setting any long-term goals; just taking things as they come. As long as I feel as a captain I can add value to the environment and lead the guys in the best way possible, there’s no reason to walk away.

“Coming close now to 100 Test captaincies (he has 97 at present – Sport24) is not the time to look too far ahead. I’m just really motivated to make every series as important as possible and to play as well as possible with the guys.”

*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing

Read more on:    proteas  |  gary kirsten  |  cricket

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