Faf Du Plessis believes South Africa can still make the World Cup semi-finals, even with talisman paceman Dale Steyn ruled out of the tournament.
South Africa insisted veteran seam bowler Steyn has suffered a new shoulder injury since arriving in the UK, allowing the Proteas to replace him with Beuran Hendricks.
The Proteas must face India in Southampton on Wednesday with Steyn and Lungi Ngidi both missing, and that after Anrich Nortje was ruled out before the tournament.
Steyn has suffered a second shoulder injury which has not responded to treatment and has ruled him out of bowling for the foreseeable future. pic.twitter.com/zAro5UcQ70— Cricket South Africa (@OfficialCSA) June 4, 2019
South Africa have already lost to both England and Bangladesh – have never suffered three opening World Cup defeats and would face a mountain to climb to reach the last four with a loss to India – but captain Du Plessis is fighting to stay confident.
Asked if Wednesday’s India clash is make or break for the Proteas’ World Cup chances, Du Plessis replied: “Six games is the target, and there’s seven games left.
“It would be great if we could start that tomorrow. There’s no easy games anymore in the World Cup.
“Bangladesh played unbelievable cricket, and Afghanistan look like they are turning over Sri Lanka, so six games is still the overall goal.
"It's huge, huge news."— Cricket World Cup (@cricketworldcup) June 4, 2019
@niallnobiobrien and @Elmakapelma react to the news that Dale Steyn has been ruled out of #CWC19 and that Beuran Hendricks has been called up as his replacement. pic.twitter.com/KpeSta7RF6
“Whether it’s winning or losing, the main thing is getting to the semi-finals.
“It’s purely just our skills that need to be upgraded. If we can deliver our skills then we will be in good positions. But so far we haven’t been there.
“Hopefully it’s a case of us just getting better every game. And if we do, hopefully we’ll start playing better cricket.”
South Africa’s medical chief Dr Mohammed Moosajee confirmed Steyn’s injury as a new shoulder complaint, with the Proteas veteran having shaken off his previous shoulder issue only to suffer a new complication.
Hendricks will arrive on Wednesday but will not be available to face India.
Hoping Steyn’s international career is not at an end, Du Plessis said: “It’s important for us to be strong for Dale.
“It’s been a tough two-and-half years for him, and he would need support right now.
“The team and management will put things in place to look after him. He needs love at the moment, he tried really hard to get fit for this campaign.
“He was bowling unbelievably well in the build-up to the tournament.
“We’ve just got to be there for him. I know he wanted to make an impact in what would have been his last World Cup.”
South Africa’s 104-run loss to hosts and tournament favourites England might have been expected, but the Proteas were stunned by Sunday’s 21-run defeat by Bangladesh.
Du Plessis admitted South Africa’s injury-ravaged bowling attack means he must draw up an entirely new plan of attack – that may revolve around trying to bat as deep as possible.
“I think we’ll really have to look at that now, there’s only 14 players to pick from now. There’s not a lot of options for the bowling attack.
“You have to decide whether you go with all your all-rounders in your team, bat deep and try to get a big score.
“Or you go with two spinners, but I don’t think spin has played that big a role here. So those are the two options we are weighing up. There aren’t many other options.”