- It will go down as one of the most intense series Test cricket has ever seen,
but in the end the record books will show that the Proteas emerged as 3-1
winners over Australia.
The tense nature of the series,
unfortunately, was not down to the cricket alone.
There was controversy from the
first Test in Durban, when CCTV footage emerged showing an off-field
altercation between David Warner and Quinton de Kock.
That was the moment that set the
series off on the wrong course, and when Kagiso Rabada was banned, and then
un-banned, for his shoulder brush on Steve Smith in Port Elizabeth, things
escalated even more.
Australian coach Darren Lehmann
then blasted South African supporters, and the Newlands crowd in particular, a
disgrace for their behaviour during the third Test.
That was the day before Steve
Smith and Cameron Bancroft, and later David Warner, admitted to being involved
in the ball-tampering incident that would emerge as the biggest news story to
come out of the entire series.
The Proteas, finally out of the
limelight, never looked back as they bossed the Aussies into submission in Cape
Town and then Johannesburg to claim a famous series win.
But, according to Du Plessis, the
fire in the bellies was ignited after the side's 118-run loss in Durban and the
hype that followed.
"We were extremely motivated
before this series and up for the challenge, but there was definitely a shift
in mindset after that first Test," Du Plessis acknowledged.
"We almost went from
motivated to motivated/angry to try and turn it around.
"The guys were really pumped
after that first game and for the first time I could feel all XI guys were
really looking forward to the next Test to try and make a play in the series.
That was a turning point for us mentally."
Du Plessis and the Proteas could
not have known how much more drama was around the corner, but looking back he
believes his charges dealt with everything as best they could.
"We deal with emotions well.
I don’t feel we are emotionally immature," he said.
"I think we handle ourselves
in the right way, even though there were times in the game where things would
get a little heated.
"There were a lot of
incidents throughout this series, but after every day we would sit in the
changeroom and I would sense there was a calmness to our emotions and we were
really just focused on winning games of cricket."
The result is that Du Plessis has
led a South African Test team to a home series win against Australia for the
first time since 1970.
"This means a lot to us. We
did speak briefly about it this morning, that there is a nice opportunity to go
down in the history books," he said.
"But for me, this series is
the best we have been right through a series. We have been winning a lot of
series, but there were little holes where we could improve.
"I felt this series was
incredible in the way we put it all together. A lot of guys put their hands up
at different stages, so it was a collective effort."