Newly-installed South Africa Test captain AB de Villiers has declared that “losing is not an option” as he prepares to keep his side’s series hopes alive against England in Johannesburg this week.
De Villiers will take over the Test reins at the Wanderers for the first time after Hashim Amla’s surprise resignation after last week’s drawn Cape Town Test.
While De Villiers has admitted he might happily give up the role after the series – when Cricket South Africa (CSA) are due to select a permanent replacement – for now he is determined to ramp up the heat on England as he looks to inspire a turnaround in fortunes.
“I am a very competitive person and I truly hate losing,” he said.
“Losing is not an option. We are here to win the series and that is all I am focusing on at the moment.
“I’ve never been the kind to throw a lot of words around or sledge but I like to have good body language and for the team to have good body language, to be in their face in that way.
“I like to really make them feel uncomfortable and to remind them they are away from home and not enjoying (the exchange rate of) the pound to the rand too much.”
In the absence of strike bowler Dale Steyn – who was this week ruled out with the shoulder injury suffered in the first Test – De Villiers will be without one of his major weapons in conditions set to favour fast bowling.
England can expect an all-out pace attack from their hosts, however, after CSA confirmed on Wednesday that spinner Dane Piedt had been released to play domestic cricket.
Piedt is the leading wicket-taker in the series but the hosts appear set to take a horses-for-courses approach which could see the big-framed Hardus Viljoen handed a Test debut.
Kyle Abbott is expected to return from a hamstring injury and with Morne Morkel’s height and bounce the Proteas attack looks equipped to follow De Villiers’ desire to get in English faces.
If that is enough to prompt nerves in England’s top-order – with Alex Hales in some doubt due to illness – De Villiers admitted he too will feel the weight of the occasion as he prepares to become the Proteas’ 10th Test captain since unity.
“It’s a huge honour and privilege to get the title and to captain my country, especially at Test level,” he said.
South Africa set to have an all pace attack tomorrow with @Hardus_Vilj in line to make test debut #SAvENG pic.twitter.com/WSJuZ8jud8
— Test Match Special (@bbctms) January 13, 2016
“It’s something I’m looking forward to, I’m very excited, but everything still feels normal to me.
“We have had a stable team culture and team spirit going over the last few years, it’s has been consistent so not much has changed in the team set-up.
“I personally still feel the same but I think tomorrow a few butterflies will be going around, which is the same with every Test I play.
“I know it comes with a lot of responsibility and hopefully I will live up to that.”
Despite the honour De Villiers admitted that his concerns over burnout mean that the two upcoming Tests might be his last in charge.
South Africa have a six-month break from the longest format after this series, when CSA will discuss who will be their next captain, but De Villiers might not be willing to accept any possible offer.
The wicketkeeper-batsman is determined to extend his career for as long as possible and that will mean deciding which parts of a hectic year-round schedule to unburden himself from.
“In the last two or three years I’ve been searching for the right answers to play a little bit less cricket in one way or another, to keep myself fresh and to keep enjoying the game,” he said.
“I’ve found myself on the pitch in the past few years, every now and then, not enjoying myself as much as I should be and that raises concerns within myself.
“I’ve been searching for answers and speaking to a few people and that has leaked a little bit.
“I’m still very committed. To the job? I’m not sure.”
De Villiers is a veteran of 104 Tests, is the Proteas’ one-day captain and is one of the world’s most sought-after Twenty20 players with a contract at Indian Premier League franchise Royal Challengers Bangalore until 2017.
He will also aim to win a first major international title with South Africa at the World T20, which starts in India on March 8.
“The two Test matches for now is all I’m focusing on, and there is a nice six-month break before we play Test match cricket again,” he added.
“Lots of things can happen before then and I don’t want to commit myself too much to everything before then.
“But for now, I’m as committed as I can be and very, very hungry to make a success of the next two Test matches.”