Proteas coach Mark Boucher says that South Africa’s win over England in the first Test at Centurion on Sunday has given them a much-needed injection of belief heading into the rest of the series.
The hosts emerged as 107-run winners to snap a five-match losing streak in the format that began in February.
Those poor returns, combined with a disappointing World Cup and the fact that Cricket South Africa (CSA) has been in administrative crisis this year, have left the state of the game in a worrying space for much of 2019.
With just three weeks to go until the start of the England series, the Proteas had no coaching team with only acting team director Enoch Nkwe in the system.
After CEO Thabang Moroe was suspended, the board appointed Graeme Smith as director of cricket while Boucher, who had spent three seasons as coach of the Titans, was given a four-year contract as head coach of the national side until after the 2023 World Cup.
Now 43, Boucher is on a mission to get the Proteas back to being one of the game’s global giants and Sunday’s commanding win gave him the perfect start.
“I’ve played quite a few Test matches and we won a couple of good ones, but certainly this is up there, especially from where we’ve been,” he said after the match.
“This is just the reward for the hard work that has put in. I’m really happy for the players and pleased with the way they went out.
“Seeing them walk off the field now, there is a sense of belief that we can win Test matches against very good teams. Hopefully, we can take that momentum forward.”
Boucher, who played the last of his 147 Test matches back in 2012, added that it was a special feeling being back in national colours and that there were some emotional moments at Centurion.
“It’s a great feeling. There have been quite a few changes that have been made in the dressing room, but the spirit is still there, and the passion is still there,” he said.
“Watching the guys walk in, there were a few lumps in the throats which shows that it means a lot to win a Test match.
“It’s a great feeling for me to be back. I’ve been out of Proteas cricket for quite some time now.
“It’s an honour for me to walk back into that changeroom and hopefully be part of a change in South African cricket.”
The coach is fully aware, however, that one Test win does not mean an awful lot in the greater scheme of things.
“We’ll enjoy this win. We don’t take Test match wins for granted, but after today we will get back on the horse and realise there is still a lot of work to be done for the rest of the series,” he said.
“By no means does this mean that anything is solved, but I’m looking forward to working hard with the guys and seeing them develop over the next while.”
The second Test gets underway at Newlands in Cape Town on January 3.