Centurion – Once they’ve completed the current Sunfoil Test series with Pakistan, South Africa don’t play another Test match for eight months – that’s a long time to ponder a defeat.
And that’s something they desperately want to avoid at SuperSport Park from Friday in the final Test of a series that they’ve already won.
Graeme Smith’s side are still on a quest to create a legacy or even to achieve a dynasty and in order to do that, Test matches cannot simply be given away in any old fashion.
“(Winning) is important in the sense that we have long-term goals,” Gary Kirsten said on Wednesday. “This game stacks up as importantly as any game for us. We don’t play a Test again until October and it’s the last time this team will be together for a significant period. I don’t think there needs to be any extra motivation. This team have got a strong sense of pride about the way they perform in every game.”
Kirsten certainly sounded contrite when making those remarks. However, the most recent side to dominate the game, Australia, had a habit of losing in dead-rubbers, that actually put a mark – albeit a small one – on their many significant achievements.
In recalling being part of South African teams that claimed wins in “dead rubber” matches against those all-conquering Australians, Kirsten said: “For us to win one against (Australia) was massive, whether it was a ‘dead rubber’ or not, they will always argue it was a ‘dead rubber’, but the team that beat them will argue that ‘we beat the best team in the world in a Test’.”
The current South African side are mindful of that. “We are the best team in the world and we don’t want to lose games at Test match level.”
Although the match finished in four days, South Africa still had to work damn hard to win the second Test in Cape Town. Many viewers probably wouldn’t begrudge them if their intensity did drop a little bit – the ultimate goal has been achieved.
But as Kirsten explained, that is not the way this South African team think. “We want to make sure every time we go on the field, we are highly competitive, we are a difficult side to beat and that we’ve got our blueprint in place about how we go about achieving the levels of success we are getting. That won’t change, we will prepare as we normally do, get ready as we normally do and our language will be similar to what it is for any preparation for any Test match.”
South Africa will make just one change to their starting XI with Rory Kleinveldt replacing the injured Morné Morkel.
While Pakistan may be deflated following the defeat in Cape Town, Kirsten said he remains wary of a team that pushed South Africa close in the second Test.
South Africa have a formidable record at Centurion, losing just once in 17 Tests – and that was the infamous “leather jacket Test” against England in 2000 when Hansie Cronjé concocted a result. – The Star