In targeting a clean-sweep over Australia, Faf du Plessis has promised South Africa will assert themselves with more than just bat and ball in Cape Town on Wednesday. South Africa's stand-in captain wants to see his boys also win the body-language battle ahead of the three-Test series in Australia starting November 3.
"As a captain, its important the intensity we play at. That does not always mean verbally, it's body language and the way you carry yourself on the field," du Plessis said. "When there is a battle that asks for another battle to come their way, that will happen. We are a team that will stand up against that. If that's required of us as a team, we will also go into that space, but its a very focused and channeled aggression; more of a body language thing.
The only real needle in the ODIs so far came in Port Elizabeth when Matthew Wade and Tabraiz Shamsi had a verbal exchange that earned both of them a a 25% fine of match fee along with one demerit point. Talk became action when Wade took a single and made no effort to avoid running into Shamsi, who protested.
Du Plessis took it up with the umpires but was proud of how Shamsi stood up. "It's just showing the opposition you are here to play, no matter how many games you have played," du Plessis said. "Shamsi has only played three ODIs but he showed he is there to compete, no matter who is on the other side. It was good to see we can also step it up in that department."
In the other departments, South Africa have exceeded expectation by dominating against the top-ranked ODI side, which is without their first-choice pace pack. However, du Plessis chose not to dwell on that, instead emphasising on how South Africa have out-batted Australia.
"I am really impressed with the style of cricket we've played," he said. "The first game set the tone for us where Quinton played one of the best one-day knocks you will see and then out-batting has been a level above what we've seen in the past. If you compare that to their batting, which is just as strong possibly on paper, maybe even stronger but they haven't matched up with our batters at all. We haven't allowed them to compete at times and even when they looked like they were going to compete, we stuck in and waited for the opportunity."
The third game in Durban was where Australia threatened their biggest comeback. Their only centuries came in that match as they piled on 371 for 6 before reducing South Africa to 217 for 5. Yet, South Africa found a way, which du Plessis was proud of.
"In Durban, they were all over us and nine times out of ten, you should lose games like that. It took something magnificent for us to win and it's happening more regularly in this team that guys are doing amazing things," he said. "The style of cricket we have played has been a new level, hopefully that's something we can drive forward. We need to make sure we keep playing like that because that's the style I would like us to play."
South Africa started the season with a culture camp that addressed their dramatic slide from No. 1 to No. 6 in the Test rankings last summer and their early exit from the World T20. They decided on what they've termed a "different direction", which is not about individuals but the collective, aiming to go "where no other South African team have been".
"We want to reach higher levels and achieve greater things than anyone else. From that perspective 5-0 is very important," du Plessis said. "The fact that the Test series comes straight after this and 60% to 70% of both teams' players are the same, the motivation of 5-0 will mean a lot to me."