Faf du Plessis and Tim Paine's fortunes have gone in wildly different directions since the Newlands scandal.
Faf du Plessis and Tim Paine's fortunes have gone in wildly different directions since the Newlands scandal.

Proteas plunge to new depths

THERE was heaven, there was hell and there was nothing in between.

There was the jubilant-beyond-belief South African team and an utterly heartbroken Australian unit standing side by side in different universes after South Africa had beaten Australia in the infamous ball-tampering series two years ago.

A tearful, torn and crushed Australian team returned home at war with each other and the world, while South Africa celebrated their first home series win against Australia since apartheid - in what AB de Villiers called the most satisfying moment of his career.

But then something surprising happened.

Australia rose slowly then sharply from the low ground, which was not a total surprise - but South Africa fell from its lofty perch to lose four of its next five series and have an absolute stinker of a World Cup in England.

As Australia returns to South Africa for a white-ball shootout there is a strong feeling in world cricket that South African is on the verge of a major, prolonged implosion that will result in it  tumbling from the admirably high standards it has maintained in the post-apartheid era.

The exits of Hashim Amla, AB de Villiers, Morne Morkel, Dale Steyn and now Vernon Philander from the Test side are an understandable setback but the rot goes a great deal deeper than that.

Just as Australia found out during the recent pay war, when tensions rise between a country's governing body and its players the entire system sours and suffers.

The relationship between Cricket South Africa and its players is incredibly toxic and it is forcing players out of the country and off to England.

Vernon Philander is the latest high-calibre player to be lost to South African cricket, following retirement.
Vernon Philander is the latest high-calibre player to be lost to South African cricket, following retirement.

South Africa could pick a Test team that would beat most nations from the 14 players, including Morne Morkel and Kyle Abbott - who are playing in England under a Kolpak deal - 19 more who play there, having settled permanently, and 11 more who jetted in as overseas professionals last summer

Kolpak deals are a throwback to the case of Slovakian handball player Maros Kolpak, who in 2003 successfully argued that his German club was wrong to deny him a contract on the grounds that it had already filled its ration of foreign players and that, under free trade laws, he had the right to work in Germany.

South Africa Test captain Faf du Plessis is under scrutiny on and off the field.
South Africa Test captain Faf du Plessis is under scrutiny on and off the field.

South Africa's 312 professional cricketers were told their domestic competition would be pruned  - 70 jobs were lost - to save money, yet at the same time administrative costs have soared by more than 40 per cent over the past four years.

Player WhatsApp groups were filled with examples of the gratuitous spending and lifestyle largesse of the CSA administrators, with newly and highly controversially appointed chief executive Thabang Moroe top of the list.

Multimillion rand cars, frequent overseas trips and first-class flights were among accusations against him.

On top of that, Moroe refused to authorise payments legally due to SACA and said in public that he did "not believe that an organisation as important as CSA should be dictated to by a trade union".

There is also the threat of salary cuts for players while six board members flew to the IPL final and stayed in a five-star hotel for almost a week.

Much is made of the country's player exodus on Kolpak (and other) contracts, but far less is said about the almost equally prolific exporting of coaching talent.

Over 25 South Africans are currently earning a living coaching international or senior state, provincial or country teams outside South Africa.

The result is a serious decline in technical standards at first-class level.

Mark Boucher recognised as much when he was appointed head coach in mid-December, as did Graeme Smith when he accepted the role as interim director of cricket.

Three weeks after accepting the role of batting coach, Jacques Kallis admitted to be being surprised at "how limited some of the players are" and that they were having to "learn about international cricket on the job."



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