Eden Park heartbreak still haunts South Africa

By David Leggat

South African players dejected after their loss to New Zealand during the ICC Cricket World Cup semifinal at Eden Park. Photo/Photosport
South African players dejected after their loss to New Zealand during the ICC Cricket World Cup semifinal at Eden Park. Photo/Photosport

South Africa still carry the memory of their World Cup semifinal loss to New Zealand with them.

That game at Eden Park in March 2015 goes down as the greatest ODI in New Zealand's history, a four-wicket win that propelled them into the final for the first time against Australia in Melbourne.

It was a heartbreaking night for South Africa and Faf du Plessis, captain for the sole T20 international at the same ground on Friday night and the three-test series later in the tour, retains strong memories of the match.

Grant Elliott's six off the second-last ball of the match from South African ace fast bowler Dale Steyn left South Africans in tear, lying on the outfield.

"It was a great game, but it'll be mixed feelings getting back there," du Plessis said today, after the team's early-morning arrival in New Zealand.

"Honestly, something like that you always carry it with you. As a team, we've definitely put it behind us, but the emotions of the day will always be with us.

"That's not a bad thing. Although we were on the wrong side of winning the game, it was a great game of cricket and something that will always be with us."

Du Plessis believes South Africa have put greater emphasis on their one-day cricket in recent times.

The proximity of the Champions Trophy in England this June has helped that and he pointed out South Africa have had some "fantastic" ODIs in recent times.

"Certainly, a highlight of my career is beating Australia 5-0 [last year].

"We are putting a huge amount of emphasis on one-day cricket. We haven't performed the way we'd like in ICC tournments.

"The buildup we have is looking good. We have a really important series in New Zealand [starting at Hamilton's Seddon Park on Sunday].

"New Zealand and England are the places you want to be playing ahead of the Champions Trophy.

"New Zealand have a great energy in their team and they are very competitive, especially in the fielding department, so you always feel their presence."

Du Plessis, who hands the ODI captaincy to AB de Villiers this weekend, acknowledged a single T20 game felt a bit skinny. As long as the games are relevant, he has no issues playing more of the shortest international form.

"For me, one T20 game feels like it possibly does not have as much relevance as it should be.

"If you have a proper series - a three-match series - it feels more important, but you try and squeeze everything in. This is a very busy tour."

- NZ Herald

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