Cape Town - The Proteas enter the second Test match against Pakistan starting at Newlands on Thursday with confidence and statistics on their side.
The squad is on a high following the six-wicket win in the first Test at Centurion last week, and will be further backed up by their impressive record in Cape Town where they have only lost one match in the last 17 played.
Faf du Plessis has led his team to victory in the last three matches at the ground - the last being a resounding 322-run win against Australia in March last year - and has never lost a series at home as captain. The Proteas have slipped to No.4 on the ICC Test rankings and a series win will earn them valuable points towards climbing back up to the summit.
“It’s a pretty good office to come to with the backdrop of the mountain,” Du Plessis said of Newlands ahead of the match. “If you ask any cricketer which is their favourite ground in the world Newlands will be up there. You come here and enjoy it; like with any job you want to come to the office with a smile on your face and a good mindset. We know the conditions well here. We know what works, we have been consistent with that. For me it lies in the mental strength.
“I’m extremely proud,” he said of his record as captain. “Personally for myself, I remember when we started on this journey we were the No.7 ranked Test team. For me it was a personal challenge to get us back to the top. Graeme (Smith) did an amazing job by getting us there for the first time ever and it was a goal of mine to try and work with Russell (Domingo) then and Gibbo (Gibson) now to try and get us back to No.1. We have been dominant in home conditions over the last few years, we are trying to get back to No.1”
Vernon Philander will make his way back into the side after making a full recovery from a hand injury, and will be looking forward to making a return at his most successful ground. He has taken 49 wickets in the nine matches he has played at an average of 17, with a lethal strike-rate of 35. Du Plessis confirmed that man of the match from the previous match, Duanne Olivier, is a definite starter.
“We are still talking about what we need to do,” he said of selection. “Historically Newlands is a ground where the pitch spins a bit, so it is about finding that balance. For us it is always a tricky circumstance finding that balance, there are a few combinations of either playing the extra seamer, spinner or playing a batsman less.
“He is the enforcer and brings variety to our attack,” he said of Olivier. “We have a lot of skill in our attack, he puts you on the backfoot and can be challenging for the batsmen, especially when you come from the sub-continent where the ball doesn’t bounce as high. We like the fact that there is variety in the attack, he is fit and can bowl long spells, we like to have that option in our armoury.”
The match is scheduled to start at 10:30 local time.