By Niall Anderson in Birmingham

2011, 2015, and now 2019 – it's only been eight years, but Faf du Plessis has seen enough of New Zealand at Cricket World Cups to last a lifetime.

For a third straight tournament, South Africa's Cup chances were swept away by the Black Caps, and for du Plessis, involved in all three defeats, the unwanted memories came flooding back.

Not only was 2019's cause of death similar to 2015 – Kane Williamson's final-over six holding uncanny similarities to Grant Elliott's semifinal winning blow – but the fact that South Africa played some quality cricket to push New Zealand to the brink, only to come up short again, is what really rankles the skipper.

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"I'm very disappointed. You know, it almost feels like [four] years ago against New Zealand again, where we actually played a good game of cricket," said du Plessis.

"I can't fault the game that we played today. We threw everything at New Zealand.

"It's tough now. The guys are hurting. I'm feeling five years older, my body is really sore after that. We left everything out there, and that's all I can ask for as a captain, that the guys fought. They showed that."

Faf du Plessis was bowled by Lockie Ferguson for 23. Photo / Getty
Faf du Plessis was bowled by Lockie Ferguson for 23. Photo / Getty

Unprompted, du Plessis twice brought up the Eden Park epic from 2015 – "those first 15 overs felt exactly like Auckland," he believed – which led to a pertinent question.

Why can't South Africa get over the hump against New Zealand at the World Cup?

"I think New Zealand is an excellent tournament team," analysed du Plessis after South Africa lost their fifth straight Cup clash against the Black Caps.

"If you look at statistically how they've played tournament cricket, their win ratio is up there with the best - the Indians and the Australians. They've always used the underdog tag, but they're certainly not an underdog this tournament. They're four from four at the moment."

Du Plessis also put New Zealand's success down to their seam attack, who have shone all tournament by making the most of the conditions on offer in the United Kingdom.

"I think it obviously helped them that the ball was swinging.

"We know that New Zealand, if you play against them and the ball is swinging through the air, they're as good as any team. That's why they were so good in the previous World Cup when they played all their games at home.

"So when you play against a team like that, you're hoping that there's not too much swing because then you can target some of their bowlers, but they were, once again, excellent with the swinging ball today. They're a good all-around team, and they've proven that for a long time now."

New Zealand's swing bowling was a major reason for their victory against South Africa, according to Faf du Plessis. Photo / Getty
New Zealand's swing bowling was a major reason for their victory against South Africa, according to Faf du Plessis. Photo / Getty

In the end, perhaps that's just it. Maybe there are no curses or hoodoos. Possibly, New Zealand have just been a slightly better side on the occasions they've clashed at the World Cup.

If so, du Plessis can live with that reality.

"New Zealand today was a little bit better than us. That's a skill thing. That's not a hunger thing. That's not a determination thing. That's not a fight thing. I can't fault the team for that."

The Alternative Commentary Collective are podcasting their way through the World Cup. Known for their unconventional sports analysis and off-kilter banter, the ACC have come to ask the tough questions. Here's the latest episode of 'The Agenda':
WARNING: GRAPHIC CONTENT