Chester-le-Street: Out of the reckoning from the ongoing World Cup, skipper Faf du Plessis rued that had South Africa got an easier fixture at the beginning of the tournament things might have panned out differently for his team.
South Africa's first three games were against hosts England, Bangladesh and favourites India in the span of one week. They lost all three encounters, severely denting their confidence.
"That first week was really tough for us. But that's the sport we play. I think it is crucial, especially for a team like us in tournaments like these, that you need to start well," du Plessis said after his side's nine-wicket victory to Sri Lanka.
"If you start well, your confidence in your team will grow and then from there, anything is possible. But to start the way we did, you come here already with an expectation of needing to do well and then you go zero from three, and that expectation becomes a weight on your shoulders. That is a heavy burden to carry."
South Africa registered only their second win of the tournament by defeating Sri Lanka by nine wickets in their penultimate game at The Riverside on Friday.
They now face Australia in their final match of the World Cup.
Talking about the match against Sri Lanka, the skipper said although the team will come together and enjoy the win, the victory feels "pretty hallow".
Du Plessis made particular mention of Dwaine Pretorius, who came off the bench to take 3/25, after not playing since the opening match against England.
"We were looking for someone that was accurate. It is about doing your job and the basics extremely well and that is not needing to bowl at 160kph or swinging the ball both ways consistently," he said.
Pretorius set the tone for South Africa to dismiss Sri Lanka cheaply and then bat without pressure in chase of a small target.
The top-order enjoyed the opportunity to spend time in the middle and both Hashim Amla and du Plessis scored unbeaten half-centuries, something that had been missing from South Africa's performances thus far.
South Africa's comfortable victory cannot change that they will exit early. Despite their disappointment, they are starting to reflect on the tournament.
"It's been a remarkable tournament where different teams on their day can beat anyone and it shows you that if you are not on top of your game, in international cricket. The margins are so small.
"We haven't been great this tournament, but we certainly haven't been that far off the ball," du Plessis said.
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