Southampton - The AB de Villiers media storm that has descended on South African cricket this week may have had the potential to derail the Proteas' World Cup campaign were it not so far off the tracks already. 

Three losses from three have left the South African charge well and truly on the rocks, but the news this week that De Villiers had made himself available for World Cup selection just ahead of the April 18 squad announcement has complicated matters even further. 

As if they didn't already have enough on-field problems, Proteas management has now had to plot their way through an unwanted mess. 

The first 10 minutes of coach Ottis Gibson's press conference at the Rose Bowl on Saturday was entirely devoted to answering questions on De Villiers.

"Are we going to spend the entire time talking about AB? There is a game against the West Indies on Monday," Gibson even offered at one point. 

The obvious concern is that the De Villiers saga will serve as an unwanted distraction to a Proteas side that is already under pressure to perform. 

There can be no doubt that having De Villiers involved would have improved South Africa's chances at the tournament - he is still one of the world's best - and there is a vocal group back home that is angered by the fact that he wasn't selected. 

At this critical stage, will the absence of De Villiers now place the likes of Aiden Markram, Rassie van der Dussen, Hashim Amla and David Miller under further pressure?

"I would want it to flip the other way and for them to go and make runs and show that they actually deserve to be here," Gibson said.

"In the series that we have won since AB left, those same batsmen were making runs ... and we've been winning."

That may be the case, but De Villiers or no De Villiers, the Proteas are in massive trouble and it will take something special to get out of it.

"The message that I've given to the players is that this is a six-week tournament. We've had a bad week," Gibson said.

"If we have a good week next week and win a couple of games, then the whole thing changes. It's only us that can change it.

"I have every confidence in the players in the dressing room, because they have done it before."

@LloydBurnard is in England covering the 2019 Cricket World Cup for Sport24 ...