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It's all about mind over matter for de Kock and South Africa

June 18, 2019 22:08 IST

South Africa face unbeaten New Zealand in Wednesday’s crunch clash at Edgbaston.

The Proteas scored their first win in this World Cup against Afghanistan last out.

South Africa's players celebrate the fall of a wicket against Afghanistan

IMAGE: South Africa's players celebrate the fall of a wicket against Afghanistan. Photograph: Andrew Boyers/Reuters

South Africa’s attitude, rather than any change in tactics, will determine how well they do at the ICC men’s World Cup, according to Quinton de Kock. 

After a tough start to the competition, with only one point from their first four matches, South Africa beat Afghanistan at the weekend and know they need to keep winning to have a chance at qualifying for the semi-finals. 

 

Next up is a crunch clash with an unbeaten New Zealand at Edgbaston, and de Kock is confident his side is ready to fight fire with fire. 

“I think the only thing that's changing is just the way we come into the game mentally,” said de Kock. “We just need to be mentally strong. We’re a pretty successful ODI team anyway going over the years so we don't need to change anything. 

“It just becomes a mental game at World Cup, trying to deal with all the pressures and stuff.” 

The most significant pressure is facing four make-or-break matches in their remaining group stage games, a situation which would weigh heavily on any team. 

Instead of allowing the stress to consume them, de Kock said South Africa are staying relaxed and focused as they enter a crucial few weeks. 

“We're pretty chilled at the moment. Our practices have been quite hectic. We've put a lot of emphasis on our energy going into the games,” he added.  

“Obviously, the situation we're in right now, our energy needs to be better than ever. We are ready to go out there and give it our best shot tomorrow and for the rest of the other games.”

While the victory over Afghanistan helped South Africa’s mindset, they now face the team that sent them out of the last two editions of the tournament and are wary of the Black Caps’ threat. 

De Kock is one of six members of the current squad who played against New Zealand in the 2015 semi-final and remembers it as the first time he was involved in such a tense encounter. 

De Kock added: “We know how good New Zealand are playing at the moment. They are a big team in World Cups. They always seem to step up.

“That (game in 2015) was pretty intense, especially as I experienced it for the first time ever, that vibe that was going through the stadium. It was just so noisy.” 

Four years have passed since then and de Kock has learnt how to handle tight situations better. The proof is in the numbers. 

As things stand, he is South Africa’s highest run-scorer this tournament with two half-centuries in his 186 runs and he puts his success down to playing with freedom. 

“In 2015, I was really a baby. I was playing my first ever World Cup. I think I put too much pressure on myself. I really wanted to do well,” he said. 

“And now that I see it a second time, I understand what I did wrong in the first one, and I understand what needs to get done now. 

“I am just being mentally free and trying to enjoy my cricket as much as I can. Then, I was putting too much pressure on myself. This year I'm trying to take it as easy as I can and just try and do my best.”

“This is a big game for us, but in saying that, our next three or four games that we have, they're all going to be big games. We’re just going to have to go out there, keep our heads steady, and play freely.” 

- (International Cricket Council) 

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