Johannesburg - The scenes coming out of Australia on Thursday were a striking indication of just how seriously the cricketing public has taken the Newlands ball-tampering saga.
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Video footage of Steve Smith breaking down at a press conference (WATCH in the video below) while apologising to the nation has gone viral, and Proteas captain Faf du Plessis says he feels for his former opposite number.
Cricket Australia has banned Smith for a year following his involvement in the incident, and while David Warner (one year) and Cameron Bancroft (nine months) have also been punished for their involvement, it is Smith who is wearing the outcry most.
On the eve of the fourth Test in Johannesburg on Friday, Du Plessis spoke about the situation and confirmed that he had sent Smith a message of support.
"I did send him a text," Du Plessis confirmed.
"From a really deep place in my heart I feel for the guy. You don’t want to see guys going through that and it’s going to be incredibly hard for him over the next days.
"I just sent him a message of support saying that he’ll get through this, he must just be strong. He appreciated the message. There is a lot of respect between the two of us. He’s a good leader for Australia."
Du Plessis added that Smith was "one of the good guys" in cricket.
"I think he is one of the good guys and he’s just been caught in a bad place," said Du Plessis.
"He’s obviously taken responsibility for that. We’re not sitting in a glass house where we think we are better than them in that aspect.
"It’s a mistake that was made and I feel that, it’s easier said than done, but they can move on now.
"Obviously the penalty is quite hard on him, but I do have quite a bit of compassion for what he’s going through. It’s not nice. You don’t want to see any cricketer or person go through that amount of pain.
"I know as a leader he would have tried to have his identity put into the Australian team and perhaps now that that chance has been taken away from him, that’s not nice. To be a captain of your country is a huge honour and you can see the disappointment. I feel really sorry for him."
Du Plessis acknowledged that Smith's ban may have been a bit harsh, but he hoped that it would set a new standard in world cricket where players would think twice before engaging in any illegal activity.
Play on Friday will start at 10:00 and the Proteas have named an unchanged team.
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