Jonathan Kodjia's second-half strike saw Ivory Coast edge to a 1-0 win over South Africa in their Africa Cup of Nations opener.

Les Elephants exited at the group stage two years ago having failed to win a match as defending champions, but they collected three points at the first attempt this time in Cairo on Monday.

Lille star Nicolas Pepe hit the bar with a first-half free-kick and Ivory Coast had to stay patient, finally getting their goal midway through the second period from Kodjia.

The goal clinched an ultimately deserved victory for Ibrahima Kamara's men, who play Morocco next as South Africa face Namibia.

South Africa had the first chance of note just before the half-hour mark as Thulani Hlatshwayo headed just wide of the top-left corner, but Ivory Coast built momentum heading into half-time.

Pepe saw a superb 20-yard free-kick crash away off the crossbar, before Ronwen Williams superbly saved from Kodjia at close range as the striker bore down on goal.

But Kodjia capitalised on his second big opportunity after 64 minutes, with the Aston Villa striker left completely unmarked to control and send a scruffy finish under Williams, Max Gradel with the assist.

Ivory Coast brought Wilfried Zaha off the bench in a bid to extend their lead but instead had to see out a nervy finish, although only Williams' stunning diving stop denied Pepe from making it two with another fizzing free-kick.

Australia's hopes of defending their Cricket World Cup crown will face a strong test this week against England and table-toppers New Zealand.

All of Australia's five wins at this year's tournament have come against sides out of the semi-final places and their tough week begins against a wounded England on Tuesday.

The tournament favourites were stunned by Sri Lanka last time out and will be desperate to respond in a much-anticipated showdown at Lord's.

Another clash at the same venue will follow for Aaron Finch's men on Saturday, Australia set to play a New Zealand side who are yet to lose at the World Cup.

FIXTURES

Monday 24 June: Bangladesh v Afghanistan (the Rose Bowl) - 1030 BST start

Tuesday 25 June: England v Australia (Lord's) - 1030 

Wednesday 26 June: New Zealand v Pakistan (Edgbaston) - 1030

Thursday 27 June: West Indies v India (Old Trafford) - 1030

Friday 28 June: Sri Lanka v South Africa (The Riverside) - 1030

Saturday 29 June: Pakistan v Afghanistan (Headingley) - 1030, New Zealand v Australia (Lord's) - 1330

Sunday 30 June: England v India (Edgbaston) - 1030

 

THE WEEK'S BIG GAME

England's defeat to Sri Lanka on Friday gave hope to the chasing pack of sneaking into the semi-finals, when previously it looked as though the hosts, Australia, India and New Zealand would pull well clear of the rest. Were Eoin Morgan's side to lose again at Lord's on Tuesday, the likes of Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Pakistan will feel they are in with a real chance, and Australia would dearly love to pile the pressure firmly on their Ashes foes.

STANDINGS

1. New Zealand - 11pts from 6 games, Net Run Rate +1.306
2. Australia - 10pts from 6 games, NRR +0.849
3. India - 9pts from 5 games, NRR +0.809
4. England - 8pts from 6 games, NRR +1.457
5. Sri Lanka - 6pts from 6 games, NRR -1.119
6. Bangladesh - 5pts from 6 games, NRR -0.407
7. Pakistan – 5pts from 6 games, NRR -1.265
8. West Indies - 3pts from 6 games, NRR +0.190
9. South Africa - 3pts from 7 games, NRR -0.324
10. Afghanistan - 0pts from 6 games, NRR -1.712

LEADING RUN-SCORERS

1: David Warner (Aus) - 447
2: Shakib Al Hasan (Ban) - 425
3: Joe Root (Eng) - 424

LEADING WICKET-TAKERS

=1: Jofra Archer (Eng), Mitchell Starc (Aus), Mohammad Amir (Pak) - 15

Faf du Plessis believes South Africa have failed to do themselves justice at the Cricket World Cup, after a 49-run defeat to Pakistan extinguished their semi-final hopes.

Defeats to England, Bangladesh, India and New Zealand had left South Africa needing a victory at Lord's on Sunday to stand any chance of securing progression to the last four.

But they never looked likely to threaten Pakistan's haul of 308-7, and the Proteas ultimately finished on 259-9.

Without the injured Dale Steyn, South Africa have failed to impress, and captain Du Plessis suggested a crisis in confidence is the reason for their meek displays.

"We're not playing well, not playing good cricket," Du Plessis, who scored 63, said at the post-match presentation.

"We're not doing ourselves justice as a team, with the skill that's in that dressing room.

"We started poorly with the ball and gave them a good start. And once again we made the same mistakes with the bat, guys getting in and then getting out.

"We need to have a good start but we haven't had that. We're losing a wicket early almost all of the time. That's been the nature through the tournament, the timing of the wickets.

"We're struggling with confidence, especially in our batting line-up. Confidence in sport is an amazing thing.

"When you're playing well, the ball just falls more for you. Our confidence is low after a few games and everything becomes a little bit more challenging, especially playing against a quality team like Pakistan."

One player who has impressed for South Africa is Imran Tahir, who became the Proteas' leading wicket-taker in World Cup history when he sent Iman-ul-Haq and Fakhar Zaman back to the pavilion.

"He has been amazing," Du Plessis said of Tahir. "He has been exceptional throughout this tournament, he's played with a lot of heart and he's led our bowling attack.

"He has been consistent in every game. But there hasn't been enough guys standing up like him and that's why we find ourselves in this position."

While South Africa will be heading home once the group stage is complete, Pakistan – who have games against New Zealand, Afghanistan and Bangladesh to come – have a glimmer of hope of making the semi-finals, though captain Sarfraz Ahmed concedes his side, who dropped several catches during the Proteas' innings, must improve in the field.

"We have to work hard on our fielding," Sarfraz said. "Again we dropped so many catches today, so we have to sort these things out to win against top teams."

South Africa were put out of their Cricket World Cup misery at Lord's, where the team's shortcomings at this tournament were exposed by Pakistan.

Pakistan may soon follow Sunday's opponents out of semi-final contention yet they eased to a 49-run victory, their 308-7 never under threat. South Africa finished on 259-9.

Defeats to England, Bangladesh, India and New Zealand put South Africa in a perilous position before this game. They have fixtures against Sri Lanka and Australia to come, but surely cannot get home soon enough now mathematical hopes of advancing from the group stage are over.

The South Africans edged Pakistan 3-2 in a home ODI series in January but their bowling - without the injured Dale Steyn - has failed to impress at the World Cup.

Pakistan chose to bat and openers Imam-ul-Haq and Fakhar Zaman both made 44 before falling to Imran Tahir, who in the process became South Africa's leading wicket-taker in World Cup history. His 39 victims nudge Tahir ahead of Allan Donald.

Babar Azam scored 69 before Haris Sohail pummelled 89 from 59 balls, falling to the penultimate delivery of the innings when he slogged at Lungi Ngidi.

In reply, South Africa lost Hashim Amla to a duck at the start of the second over, Mohammad Amir given the lbw verdict after Pakistan went to a review.

And although Quinton de Kock and captain Faf du Plessis put on 87 for the second wicket, it was often slow going. De Kock went for 47 and Du Plessis for 63.

The scoreboard kept ticking over, the run rate kept climbing. South Africa were never at the races, typical of them in this ill-fated campaign.


PAKISTAN MUST KEEP BELIEVING

With matches against New Zealand, Afghanistan and Bangladesh to come, Pakistan could still squeeze into the semi-finals. Their batting performance was solid enough in this match, albeit against a largely impotent attack, and if Amir can put the brakes on Kane Williamson, Ross Taylor and Co. at Edgbaston on Wednesday, then New Zealand's unbeaten start could be under threat. They have a glimmer of hope now.

PROTEAS PAIN

Questions will be asked about where it all went wrong for South Africa. Dale Steyn's absence was a major blow to their hopes, but they began the tournament badly and lacked the guile to set the team back on a sure course. Will Du Plessis stay on as skipper? That is sure to come in for scrutiny, with Aiden Markram having been tipped in some quarters as a suitable replacement despite his struggles with the bat. The inquest can begin now.

Stuart Baxter has warned South Africa's Group D rivals his side are not intimidated, despite their poor recent record at the Africa Cup of Nations.

The 1996 winners have made it through to the quarter-finals just once in the last eight editions of the tournament and failed to even qualify in 2017.

They begin their quest for a second AFCON crown against Ivory Coast at the Al Salam Stadium in Cairo on Monday, before taking on Namibia and a much-fancied Morocco side.

South Africa have not managed to make it past the group stage in four of their last five AFCON appearances but British coach Baxter, who is in his second spell in charge, is adamant his side will give everything they have to end their disappointing run.

"We are playing against the best teams on the continent which we have in our group," he said. "We need not get intimidated but play with respect and at the same time give the opponents the respect they deserve but never fear them.

"We are not favourites to win the tournament but what you will not see is a South African side afraid of its opponents. This is a side that can match any side in this tournament."

But Bafana Bafana have won only one of their last 15 games in the competition - 2-0 against Angola on home soil in January 2013 - and they take on an in-form Ivory Coast side in their opener.

The two-time winners beat Zambia 4-1 in their final warm-up match to make it just one defeat in their last 12 outings.

And one of the stars of their current squad, Lyon forward Maxwel Cornet, has talked up side's chances of going all the way for the second time in four years.

"We will go to [Egypt] to bring back the cup," he said. "It's normal. We will give everything there. It's for the whole people, a whole nation. 

"Given the disillusionment after the non-qualification for the 2018 World Cup, we are really keen to show the Ivorians that they can all count on us."

 


PLAYERS TO WATCH

Ivory Coast - Nicolas Pepe

Pepe has been linked with a number of clubs after scoring 22 times in 38 Ligue 1 appearances for runners-up Lille in 2018-19. He has formed a good partnership with Wilfried Zaha at international level and has been tipped to light up the tournament.


South Africa - Percy Tau

Belgium-based Tau has scored nine times for South Africa and is coming off the back of a good campaign with Royale Union Saint-Gilloise, where he is on loan from Premier League side Brighton and Hove Albion.

KEY OPTA FACTS

- Ivory Coast and South Africa's only previous encounter in the Africa Cup of Nations was in 1998. The game ended 1-1 in the group stages, with both teams going through to the knockout stages.
- This is Ivory Coast's 23rd AFCON participation, a tally only bettered by Egypt (24).
- South Africa are the last team to win the Africa Cup of Nations on their debut, it was in 1996.
- Ivory Coast have lost only one of their last 17 AFCON group games, with their last defeat in an opening match coming against Ghana back in 1996.

Sarfraz Ahmed has pleaded with fans to stop abusing players as Pakistan continue to struggle at the Cricket World Cup.

Pakistan have won just one game at the tournament and sit second last in the standings, with Sunday's 89-run defeat to rivals India particularly painful for supporters.

Despite being with his child, Sarfaraz was abused in public in the aftermath of the India loss, an incident filmed and distributed on social media.

Other players have reportedly been abused, too, both in person and online.

Speaking ahead of Pakistan's clash against South Africa at Lord's on Sunday, Sarfraz said players were "affected psychologically" by such incidents.

"Social media and media are not in our control," he said.

"They are so big that you cannot stop them. Teams have lost before but now on social media it is unstoppable. Whoever thinks [anything, they just] write it on social media. That hurts, too much. Players are affected psychologically.

"Criticise us on our game, that's not an issue, but don't abuse us. Their families get affected. 

"Our fans are emotional and these same people lift us when we win. But if they feel sad on a defeat we also feel the same way.

"We feel it much more because we are playing for Pakistan."

A Pakistan Cricket Board spokesman added that players had been to told to "be cautious" given the past week.

"We have advised players to be aware of the situation and be cautious. It is not correct that we have barred them from going out as is projected in some parts of the media," a spokesman said.

Pakistan's next opponents have also won only one game at the World Cup, with South Africa also having struggled for form so far.

Beleaguered Pakistan and South Africa have no margin for error when they meet in a must-win Cricket World Cup match at Lord's on Sunday.

Pakistan and the Proteas are highly unlikely to feature in the semi-finals after winning just one match apiece.

The ICC Champions Cup holders will be smarting from a heavy defeat in a rain-affected match against arch-rivals India at Old Trafford last time out and could make changes, with Haris Sohail among the contenders to come into the side.

South Africa have also endured a miserable tournament, New Zealand captain Kane Williamson's magnificent unbeaten century consigning them to a four-wicket loss on Wednesday that left them all but eliminated.

Faf du Plessis says there will be an overhaul of the ODI squad after the World Cup and there may be changes in London this weekend, with the batting line-up having failed time and again.

The last four appears to be beyond reach for both sides, but they will be expected to try and salvage some pride this weekend after coming in for a barrage of criticism.

 

TOURNAMENT SO FAR

South Africa started with a defeat to England and have only beaten Afghanistan, also suffering injury blows along the way.

West Indies inflicted a heavy defeat on Pakistan in their opener and although they responded with a win over hosts England, that proved to be a false dawn.

 

WHAT THEY SAID

Pakistan paceman Wahab Riaz: "Our focus is on beating South Africa, and we know we shouldn't get ahead or think about the future. [We need to focus] on what we do in the now and not what is happening elsewhere."

Proteas head coach Ottis Gibson: "We've still got three games to play and I'd like to think that we can at least play the way we know we can play. We haven't played like that, for whatever reason, but I'd like to think we can still do that."

 

OPTA FACTS

- South Africa have won three of their four World Cup matches between the two nations, but Pakistan came out on top in their last meeting in the competition four years ago.

- Pakistan have lost seven of their 11 ODI games at Lord's, while the Proteas have recorded one win in four attempts at the famous London ground.

- Imran Tahir needs to strike twice to become South Africa's leading World Cup wicket-taker. Allan Donald currently holds the record on 38.

New Zealand captain Kane Williamson saluted team-mate Colin de Grandhomme after a tense four-wicket win over South Africa at the Cricket World Cup.

Williamson and De Grandhomme compiled the 91-run match-defining partnership before the latter was dismissed for 60 from 47 balls with victory in sight at Edgbaston.

A six followed by a four from Williamson saw New Zealand home with three balls to spare, and he was predictably named man of the match after reaching 106 not out.

However, Williamson preferred to praise De Grandhomme, whose quickfire runs gave the Black Caps momentum at a crucial stage of the contest.

"Colin de Grandhomme stood out for me today, in terms of with the ball and then the impetus he came and showed with the bat was really special," Williamson said.

"It was a superb knock from him."

Williamson said of his own task with the bat: "It's trying to do the job as well as you can, and I was fortunate I was able to do it today. There were a number of other contributions that were so vital throughout the innings.

"Today was a really close match - could have gone either way - but it was nice to get a win."

New Zealand remain unbeaten and look to be heading to the semi-finals. Williamson's opposite number Faf du Plessis, by contrast, is facing World Cup elimination with South Africa.

Du Plessis said after a fourth defeat of his team's campaign: "Performances haven't been there. Individually we would have liked to have taken on more responsibility to put on performances that could drive the team home but it hasn't been there.

"But we are fighting as a team and I think you saw that today."

South Africa are staring at Cricket World Cup elimination after Kane Williamson's century powered New Zealand to a thrilling last-over victory at Edgbaston.

The New Zealand captain reached 3,000 ODI runs as skipper of the Black Caps while making the 106 not out that drove his team to a four-wicket success in overhauling the Proteas' 241-6.

The semi-finals are in sight for a New Zealand side who remain unbeaten and move top of the group-stage table, but hapless South Africa face ignominious elimination after a fourth loss in six.

Williamson was the steadying influence in a New Zealand innings that could have fallen apart without him.

He and Martin Guptill put on 60 for the second wicket, before Guptill trod on his own stumps. Williamson later shared in a 91-run partnership for the sixth wicket with Colin de Grandhomme just as South Africa began to threaten.

Chris Morris took three middle-order wickets and bowled well for South Africa, but it was neither his nor his team's day. That was quite clear when David Miller dropped De Grandhomme and then failed to gather at the stumps when looking to run out Williamson.

De Grandhomme went for 60 late on but Williamson made sure, crashing Andile Phehlukwayo over midwicket for six to reach three figures in the final over before victory was secured with three balls left.

South Africa's innings was built on three core partnerships, as Hashim Amla and Faf du Plessis put on 50 for the second wicket, Amla and Aiden Markram added 52 for the third, and Rassie van der Dussen joined Miller in putting on 72 for the fifth.

Amla reached a landmark during his 55 as he became the second fastest player to accumulate 8,000 ODI runs, with only Virat Kohli having reached the mark in fewer innings.

Van der Dussen went on the attack late on and finished with 67 not out from 64 deliveries, but South Africa needed more than isolated big hitting to trouble such distinguished opposition and their tournament is all but over.

 

SOUTH AFRICA CAN ONLY BLAME THEMSELVES

They had plenty of chances to come out on the right side of such a tight encounter, but South Africa were the architects of their own downfall. Replays at a crucial point in the match suggested Imran Tahir drew a nick behind from Williamson, but there was no review taken. A catch went down, a run out was missed. It was chaotic fielding and New Zealand capitalised.

MORRIS MAKES HIS MARK

Set aside the brutal opening defeat to Bangladesh for one moment, and Morris has had a fine World Cup for South Africa. He made runs against India, took three wickets against Afghanistan and now another three wickets at New Zealand's expense. The medium-fast bowler can look innocuous at times, but try telling that to Ross Taylor, Tom Latham and Jimmy Neesham, who all perished to him. Team-mates failed to match his display, however.

Hashim Amla became the second fastest player to accumulate 8,000 ODI runs after reaching the landmark in South Africa's Cricket World Cup encounter with New Zealand on Wednesday.

The 36-year-old Proteas opener got to the landmark figure in his 176th innings in the format, having started the day on 7,976 career runs.

Only Virat Kohli has reached 8,000 ODI runs in fewer innings than Amla, the India captain getting there in 175 knocks.

Amla was looking to play a telling innings at Edgbaston in a crucial match for struggling South Africa in their World Cup campaign.

He lost his opening partner Quinton de Kock in the second over, and captain Faf du Plessis fell for 23 after helping to put on 50 for the second wicket.

Amla was unbeaten on 34 at the beginning of the 18th over, with South Africa 66-2.

Kohli was also playing at Edgbaston when he achieved the feat, making an unbeaten 96 against Bangladesh at the Champions Trophy two years ago.

Quinton de Kock acknowledges South Africa's Cricket World Cup clash with New Zealand is effectively a "quarter-final" due to its must-win nature, yet the Proteas are feeling confident.

South Africa endured a miserable start to the World Cup, losing their first three matches and then only taking a point against West Indies due to no result.

A victory against Afghanistan kept the Proteas' top-four and semi-final hopes alive, but there is no room for error now, with South Africa four points adrift of fourth-placed India.

"It's a big game for us, but in saying that, our next three or four games that we have [are, too]," De Kock told a news conference on Tuesday.

"They're all going to be big games for us for the rest of the tournament. We're just going to have to go out there, keep our heads steady and play freely.

"Tomorrow is a quarter-final, I guess you could say. But if we do win it, it's another big game again.

"Obviously, it is a big game, but there's a lot more that we are focusing on also. We have to win all the games, not just focus on tomorrow.

"But in saying that, 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. So it's going to be a tough one."

Of South Africa's mood, he added: "Before our first game that we played against England, we were in a pretty good space also then, mentally and with preparation.

"Then obviously, during the course of the tournament, after losing all the time, there's always a bit of a slump in being mentally strong. It's a long tournament, it's a tough tournament.

"Obviously, getting a win again has given us high hopes. So we are pretty confident at the moment. It's just about taking it out there and giving the guys a good show."

South Africa may have to win all of their remaining group-stage matches to earn a place in the Cricket World Cup semi-finals and Faf du Plessis' side face two tricky challenges this week.

The Proteas lost their first three games at this tournament, belatedly getting a point on the board with a washout against West Indies before picking up their first win thanks to a comfortable triumph over Afghanistan last week.

But things certainly do not get any easier for South Africa over the coming seven days, as they take on an unbeaten New Zealand and a mercurial Pakistan, who desperately need a win themselves following Sunday's resounding defeat to fierce rivals India.

Virat Kohli's side look the strongest all-round outfit in the competition and they should pick up another victory against Afghanistan, who also face hosts England in a tough week for the only team yet to claim a point.

 

FIXTURES

Monday 17 June:  West Indies v Bangladesh (Taunton) - 1030 BST start

Tuesday 18 June:  England v Afghanistan (Old Trafford) - 1030

Wednesday 19 June:  New Zealand v South Africa (Edgbaston) - 1030

Thursday 20 June:  Australia v Bangladesh (Trent Bridge) - 1030

Friday 21 June:  England v Sri Lanka (Headingley) - 1030

Saturday 22 June:  India v Afghanistan (the Rose Bowl) - 1030, West Indies v New Zealand (Old Trafford) - 1330

Sunday 23 June:  Pakistan v South Africa (Lord's) - 1030

 

THE WEEK'S BIG GAME

With over half their matches played and only three points to their name, South Africa can ill-afford any slip-ups. Their first assignment of the week comes against the Black Caps on Wednesday, in a repeat of the thrilling semi-final from four years ago that saw New Zealand squeeze through. If the Proteas can dish out a first defeat of the tournament to Kane Williamson's side, they will go into Sunday's clash against an erratic Pakistan with renewed hope of securing a top-four finish.

STANDINGS

1. Australia - 8pts from 5 games, Net Run Rate +0.812
2. New Zealand - 7pts from 4 games, NRR +2.163
3. India - 7pts from 4 games, NRR +1.029
4. England - 6pts from 4 games, NRR +1.557
5. Sri Lanka - 4pts from 5 games, NRR -1.778
6. West Indies - 3pts from 4 games, NRR +0.666
7. South Africa - 3pts from 5 games, NRR -0.208
8. Bangladesh - 3pts from 4 games, NRR -0.714
9. Pakistan - 3pts from 5 games, NRR -1.933
10. Afghanistan - 0pts from 4 games, NRR -1.638

 

LEADING RUN-SCORERS

1: Aaron Finch (Aus) - 343
2: Rohit Sharma (Ind) - 319
3: David Warner (Aus) - 281

 

LEADING WICKET-TAKERS

=1: Mohammad Amir (Pak), Mitchell Starc (Aus) - 13
2: Pat Cummins (Aus) - 11

Imran Tahir has "single-handedly" made South Africa a strong team in the past two years, according to captain Faf du Plessis.

Spinner Tahir claimed figures of 4-29 from his seven overs as the Proteas claimed their first win at this year's Cricket World Cup by resoundingly beating Afghanistan by nine wickets in Cardiff.

The 40-year-old, who will step down from international cricket after the competition, tore through Afghanistan after the second rain delay, helping restrict them to 125 on a pitch that was not conducive to spin.

"Tahir has probably single-handedly made us a very strong team for the last two years with his ability to get wickets at any stage, his control, so much variation," said Du Plessis after the match.

"Even on a pitch like today when the boundaries are really small and the ball's not spinning much, somehow he still finds a way. That's the difference between the good ones and the great."

The Proteas laboured in reaching a DLS-amended target of 127, with Quinton de Kock scoring 68 off 72 and the struggling Hashim Amla requiring 83 deliveries to make an unbeaten 41 in their 28.4 overs before getting over the line thanks to a huge Andile Phehlukwayo six.

"Naturally, Quinton always plays quite freely but it was important for him to see off the new ball," said Du Plessis. "We needed a 60 or 70-run partnership and we could work on the run rate later.

"It was important for Amla to get among the runs. The next four games, net run rate is not going to play a massive role if you win those games. We need Hashim to score runs for us, so I'm just happy for him to get a not out and get some runs on the board."

Afghanistan replaced Najibullah Zadran, who posted scores of 51 and 43 in their opening two World Cup matches, with Asghar Afghan for the match at Sophia Gardens.

Captain Gulbadin Naib lamented his team's failure to correct their errors from previous matches and suggested Najibullah could return to the line-up for Tuesday's meeting with England at Old Trafford after Afghan was out for a duck.

"We need to play much better cricket. We did well in the opening overs but we repeated the same mistakes again," said Naib.

"We have a lot of batsmen with Rashid Khan coming in at nine, but we need the lower-middle order to push the scoreboard.

"Asghar is a senior player, that's why we gave him a chance. Najib is an outstanding batsman, we'll have him in the team in the upcoming matches."

Quinton de Kock scored 68 as South Africa eased to their first victory of the Cricket World Cup, hammering Afghanistan by nine wickets in Cardiff. 

South Africa captain Faf du Plessis has challenged his team to save their Cricket World Cup skins by taking ownership of a group-stage crisis.

The 34-year-old said hope alone would get the Proteas nowhere and instructed his slow-starting stars to search within themselves and pull out a string of performances.

Defeats to England, Bangladesh and India - and a rained-off clash with West Indies - have left South Africa in a dire position and with Du Plessis demanding wins from all five of their remaining matches.

On Saturday they face Afghanistan in Cardiff, and another off-day could inflict a fatal blow to their semi-final hopes.

Du Plessis said he has experienced no greater challenge in his tenure as captain, and his man-management skills have been put to an extreme test.

"It's just been checking in with every guy individually ... and then just making sure that I make it clear to them that there needs to be purpose in what's coming up. You can't just hope for things to change," Du Plessis said on Friday.

"Hope's a very dangerous thing for me; you either make it happen [or you don't], the fact that you need to get yourself out of that space as quick as possible.

"And just finding different keys and different players where I feel that they can lead better in different departments, where they can take more responsibility, where they can take more ownership.

"So it's about trying to unlock players' best that is lying somewhere underneath them. Hopefully we can see a little bit of that coming out in the next few games."

South Africa will be hoping for clear skies in Cardiff and to find the display that earns a first victory, with New Zealand, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Australia their remaining opponents.

"From a challenge, myself as a leader, this has been right up there," Du Plessis said. "But I suppose that's what the last two, three years of captaining this side has prepared me for.

"Whether it's good situations or bad situations, you try to mature as much as you can as a captain to try and be ready for when it's really, really tough because then the team looks to the leaders in the side.

"So it's a hard time, but it's also a time that I'm really owning up to the fact that I need to step up and make sure that I lead the team in a time when they need me."

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