While acknowledging that New Zealand provides some foreign and difficult conditions, South Africa’s coach Gary Kirsten said it was the responsibility of his players to acclimatise to those conditions and be successful in them.
Kirsten and members of South Africa’s limited overs teams left for New Zealand last night. There they will play three matches in each of the game’s short formats. A three-match Test series will also be contested.
While the Black Caps have never dominated South Africa on home soil – in fact they’ve won only one Test in New Zealand against the South Africans – they have always proved tricky opponents.
Kirsten and the SA T20 and ODI captain AB de Villiers described them as “street-smart” and when it comes to effectively utilising their unique conditions, the New Zealanders are masters.
“I think we have a quality team full of skill and talent, we can confront any conditions we play in. It’s also our responsibility to know that we can go around the world and have good results and big performances in any conditions,” said Kirsten, who is undertaking his first tour as South Africa’s coach.
The first T20 international will be played on Friday, but Kirsten stressed the importance of taking the side over as early as possible so that the players could acclimatise to conditions.
“Each squad will have five or six days of preparation time, (New Zealand) is different, the weather is different, it’s always pretty cold and that takes a bit of getting used to. You need a good six or seven days just to acclimatise with the jet lag, we have taken that into account and we’ve done what we can.”
Another important part of the side’s preparation will be building team spirit.
De Villiers said he was relieved to be going on tour, as it offered him the best opportunity to foster team spirit.
“It’s tough to do that at home. Things are disjointed on tour and there is nothing else to do but be with your team-mates, which is great.”
That should certainly aid youngsters like Richard Levi and Marchant de Lange, who have never toured before with the national team, while the likes of Rusty Theron and Justin Ontong are keen to re-establish themselves at international level after some time out of the game.
South Africa last toured New Zealand in 2004, drawing the Test series 1-1, after they’d lost the one-day series 5-1.
De Villiers is aware of how dangerous they can be.
“They are a very clever team, very street smart, they think on their feet.
“There’s been a lot of talk about them taking pace off the ball and bowling straight lines and countering our pace attack with that, but their pace attack has done really well lately so it may be stupid to do that.”
New Zealand have built on the confidence-boosting win they achieved against neighbours Australia last December, thumping Zimbabwe in two days in a one-off Test and then sweeping the same side in three ODIs.
South Africa is a very big fish for them, but Kirsten stressed it was equally as important for the Proteas to perform there – not least because there was a chance to become Test cricket’s No 1 team with a 3-0 sweep.
“We understand that this tour is important for our tour to England,” he commented. “This will be a competitive series. They are not an easy team to beat at home. We have a lot of confidence in our ability as a Test side, but we have to stack up the performances on a consistent basis and that is one area that we will continue to focus on. We want to make sure we are able to sustain our performances over a series.” – Saturday Star