London, June 24 : South Africa skipper Faf du Plessis feels the group stage exit from the ongoing World Cup is the lowest point of his career as captain.
On Sunday, South Africa were handed a crushing 49-run defeat by Pakistan in their crucial World Cup tie at the Lord's in London, thus ruling out their chances of making it to the semis.
The Proteas have now lost their five out of the seven games they have played at the ongoing tournament and are only above Afghanistan - the only side they have beaten - in the points table.
"Yes, definitely (it is the lowest point). I'm a very proud player and captain, and playing for South Africa means a lot for me, and the fact that the results we're dishing out at the moment - you know, it's really, really tough, and borderline.
Today, it's a little bit embarrassing. We're trying but it's just not good enough. Obviously I'm human as well, so it will keep chipping at me," ESPNcricinfo quoted a dejected du Plessis as saying at the post-match press conference.
"It's important that the coach, myself, the senior players, are the guys that needs to front up to this challenge. That's when your players need you the most. So right now, I need to be there for the other players as well."
It is for the first time since the disastrous 2003 World Cup campaign that South Africa have failed to go past the first round of the showpiece event.
Against Pakistan, their pacers Kagiso Rabada and Lungi Ngidi didn't seem to be at their absolute best. It was only veteran leg-spinner Imran Tahir who came out with all the energy and intensity in an otherwise lack-lustre performance from the Proteas bowlers and conceded a difficult total of 308.
Chasing 309, the Proteas batter once again failed to come out with a good performance as none of the batsmen, barring du Plessis -- who scored 63 off 79 balls -- could muster the courage to stay long at the wicket. The South African team kept on losing wickets at regular intervals and was restricted to 259/9 in their allotted 50 overs.
"You know, I feel we keep making the same mistakes over and over again," said du Plessis.
"Probably started off with the bowling. Our bowling has been the one thing that's been working this tournament, and today, a well-below-par performance, probably bar Immy (Imran Tahir), who was exceptional once again.
"But the rest of the guys, probably, you know, five-out-of-ten performance with the ball, 30 runs too many [given away] and the same thing with the bat once again. We're starting our innings losing wickets again and then we build something nicely, get a partnership going, and then wicket and then wicket," he added.
During the presser, the 32-year-old also revealed that he and the team management had tried to stop Rabada from playing this season of the Indian Premier League (IPL) in order to keep him fresh for the showpiece event.
"I don't think we'll ever have a perfect answer for that because he's probably biting on too much," du Plessis said when asked about Rabada's workload.
"But we did try and get him not to go to the IPL; to try and stay and get fresh. That wasn't the case of -- and then when he went there, we were like, let's try and get him back halfway through the IPL because it's important, not just for him, but a few other players.
"I mean, I spoke about it before the IPL even started, that it's important that we try and find space to rest our three-format players, because they play all the formats all the time, and then IPL.
"So I don't think it's not necessarily just the IPL, but it was important for a few guys to rest; and the fact that they didn't meant that they -- you know, they came into the tournament not fresh. That's not an excuse; that's just a fact. And KG is -- you can see that his pace is probably a little bit down from where he normally is," he added.
In 2019, Rabada has till now bowled 303 overs in all competitions, 47 of which came at the IPL. During the IPL, he scalped 25 wickets at 14.72 from 12 games for Delhi Capitals.
However, the 24-year-old picked up a back injury at the back-end of the tournament and was eventually withdrawn by Cricket South Africa as a precautionary measure.
Rabada, expected to lead the Proteas pace battery in absence of Dale Steyn, proved ineffective in the disastrous World Cup campaign of the Proteas. In six innings at the World Cup so far, he has returned only six wickets at an average of 50.83, which is way too higher than his ODI career average of 27.74.
South Africa will now play against Sri Lanka on June 28, which will be followed by their last game of the tournament against Australia on July 6.