South Africa in England 2012 August 14, 2012

SA preparations come full circle

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With South Africa's preparation for the final Test in the series against England almost complete, they have called on a special assistant to add the finishing touch. Explorer Mike Horn, famous for his solo full circle of the globe without motorised transport, has joined up with the camp in London to complete a journey that began at his home in Château d'Oex, Switzerland, before the tour began.

The squad spent four days with Horn before arriving in England on an excursion that was focused on gaining mental strength through physical exertion. Their challenges included cycling up Alpine slopes, hiking for miles and skiing. Although they will not be doing anything similar with Horn this time, his presence will serve as motivation as they approach the match that will determine whether they are crowned world No.1.

"He is an inspiration for us, he played a big role in our preparations before the tour and he will no doubt add value to our current team environment," Gary Kirsten, South Africa head coach, said.

Horn and Kirsten are friends who have worked together before, most notably during India's 2011 World Cup campaign, which ended in victory. The Indian squad did not shy away from crediting Horn with helping them believe they could achieve and Kirsten is hopeful he will have the same effect on the South African side.

"I can't come here and teach the players how to bat or to bowl," Horn admitted. "I am here to bring something away from the game. They have proven that they are a better team than before. There is a good ambience in the camp and the players are looking forward to performing better as a team. I'm not going to say much, I think my presence will say a lot."

Horn's impact on the changes made to the South African mindset are obvious. Jacques Kallis referred to it as simply a "very positive frame of mind," but it is more complex than that. There is a sense of confidence that did not run as deeply as before. Even Mark Boucher, the toughest, hardest member of the squad whose retirement was forced in the first match at Taunton after a horrific eye injury, admitted he had never been so severely challenged as he was in Switzerland.

Along with Boucher, other members of the squad called the camp the toughest few days of their lives. Dale Steyn remembered the a day when they scaled a 3,300-metre peak, which included a rope climb and an ice-field which exhausted most of the squad but left Horn looking like he had "just pitched up home after a stroll in the park".

The day did not end there as Horn then led them to the top of a 750-metre peak, on an uphill cycle for 7 kilometres. "Players used every swearword in the book, until they were too exhausted to swear… and there was still more to climb," Steyn wrote on his blog. "I had never been so physically exhausted in my life. But I was in Mike Horn territory, so I refused to get off my bike, refused to rest, refused to walk. I found reserves that I never knew I had.

"AB de Villiers said that he had never been that exhausted before and that he pushed harder than he had ever had in his life. He now knew he could do more than he believed."

A lot of the rhetoric the team squad has sprouted since that trip has been of a similar nature. It sounds contrived and candyfloss but the expedition to the Alps appears to have made a major difference to the South African mindset. Often criticised for collapsing at the crucial moment, South Africa have shown displays of fortitude in the series so far.

After a lacklustre start on the first day at The Oval, they returned to knock England back on the second morning and then batted them out of the match. When it looked like Kevin Pietersen was going to seize the series back for England at Headingley, South Africa returned to remove him swiftly the next morning. Having arrived in England with the mantra that winning crucial moments will win the series, South Africa have done that so far.

Their most crucial moments await at Lord's. Having Horn on the balcony to remind them of the things they have already conquered is what South Africa hope will spur them on to triumph in their biggest Test to date.

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • MattyP1979 on August 16, 2012, 0:04 GMT

    Alot of upset Ind fans (or SA fans depending on who is playing) for my last post. It is true Eng haven't beaten Ind in Ind for 3000 years or so. Vickey...which member of this team was playing 27 years ago? I said THIS team stands a very good chance against Ind even at home. I think it will be a hard fought series, we certainly won't be embarassed like your lot were over here. As for serving up dust bowls...for who exactly? Get some bowlers.

  • virgoman73 on August 15, 2012, 21:08 GMT

    @ Pras_Punter You obviously have blinders on and don't follow all international cricket. You say Eng never win away from home; They became no.1 buy creaming Aus in the last ashes, in Aus! Go SA!!!

  • on August 15, 2012, 19:54 GMT

    as far as ranking is concerned INDIA got the top slot playing in their country and ENGLAND beating everyone in their backyard and the moment they faced a single AWAY series they were troubled................ but this South African side is really a good team having some good fast bowlers and solid batsmen as the Players Ranking shows.................. and they have won everywhere as their record depicts.................. they deserve this NO. 1 spot.............

  • on August 15, 2012, 19:48 GMT

    to everyone having a go at Pakistan as low ranked team............... go check the record of past 2 years.............. most highly ranked teams dont match their consistency under the cool and calm leadership of Misbah ul Haq who hasnt lost a series being as captain.............. and if anyone ll refer to the last Srilanka tour, I remind him that Misbah was not playing in the match Pak lost and if there be no rain, he would have secured A win ATLEAST to draw the series.............

  • Cpt.Meanster on August 15, 2012, 18:16 GMT

    @Pras_Punter: Seriously, friend your comment lacks complete logic. Of course India would prepare wickets to their strength !! That is what you call HOME advantage. It's up to England to adapt to those conditions and "TRY" to to beat India in India. Historically England have never managed to do that in last 30 years or so. Therefore, what else can we expect from them this time around ?! As an Indian fan, I still hope England can compete with India because it will be a pity when the Indian batsman feast on the English bowlers. I don't wish bad for England but we all need to know our history lessons. Besides, if SA couldn't play pace and swing, wouldn't good old England prepare grassy wickets to down them ? Hmm.. please think about it.

  • mishvik1 on August 15, 2012, 15:44 GMT

    @Pras_Punter - I don't know if you really follow English team. Please make your team win outside England (impossible task though) and then post such comments. The world saw how you crashed 3-0 to a low ranking team (Pak) outside your home conditions. I wish your team could play as well as they and you talk; probably you would have been No. 1 for years and not few months.

    So sit back relax and enjoy the last few days of being No. 1.

  • InnocentGuy on August 15, 2012, 14:39 GMT

    So the whole debate of India preparing wickets to suit their style is moot because every team does that. That's what is called 'home advantage'. I'm not saying that's a good thing but that is definitely not wrong. Why would they knowingly prepare a green and seaming pitch which will not only make things difficult for themselves but also suit the visitors? Why would any team prepare conditions that are unfavorable to themselves and favor the tourists? India would be stupid to prepare anything other than dust bowls when England come knocking. The ball zipping past right and left and the English batsmen looking like ducks flapping in the water is a sight that I cannot wait to watch!

  • keptalittlelow on August 15, 2012, 13:24 GMT

    Its going to be a monumental effort for England if they have to stay at top, chances are bleak though!!

  • cheguramana on August 15, 2012, 13:06 GMT

    Credit to SA team management for doing something different in preparing for a critical series. I hope SA beat England, get the No.1 ranking and get to bury the 'chokers' tag for good ! (altho that wl probably need a WC victory). Go SA !

  • Venki_indian on August 15, 2012, 13:01 GMT

    i hope SA wont choke this time...

  • MattyP1979 on August 16, 2012, 0:04 GMT

    Alot of upset Ind fans (or SA fans depending on who is playing) for my last post. It is true Eng haven't beaten Ind in Ind for 3000 years or so. Vickey...which member of this team was playing 27 years ago? I said THIS team stands a very good chance against Ind even at home. I think it will be a hard fought series, we certainly won't be embarassed like your lot were over here. As for serving up dust bowls...for who exactly? Get some bowlers.

  • virgoman73 on August 15, 2012, 21:08 GMT

    @ Pras_Punter You obviously have blinders on and don't follow all international cricket. You say Eng never win away from home; They became no.1 buy creaming Aus in the last ashes, in Aus! Go SA!!!

  • on August 15, 2012, 19:54 GMT

    as far as ranking is concerned INDIA got the top slot playing in their country and ENGLAND beating everyone in their backyard and the moment they faced a single AWAY series they were troubled................ but this South African side is really a good team having some good fast bowlers and solid batsmen as the Players Ranking shows.................. and they have won everywhere as their record depicts.................. they deserve this NO. 1 spot.............

  • on August 15, 2012, 19:48 GMT

    to everyone having a go at Pakistan as low ranked team............... go check the record of past 2 years.............. most highly ranked teams dont match their consistency under the cool and calm leadership of Misbah ul Haq who hasnt lost a series being as captain.............. and if anyone ll refer to the last Srilanka tour, I remind him that Misbah was not playing in the match Pak lost and if there be no rain, he would have secured A win ATLEAST to draw the series.............

  • Cpt.Meanster on August 15, 2012, 18:16 GMT

    @Pras_Punter: Seriously, friend your comment lacks complete logic. Of course India would prepare wickets to their strength !! That is what you call HOME advantage. It's up to England to adapt to those conditions and "TRY" to to beat India in India. Historically England have never managed to do that in last 30 years or so. Therefore, what else can we expect from them this time around ?! As an Indian fan, I still hope England can compete with India because it will be a pity when the Indian batsman feast on the English bowlers. I don't wish bad for England but we all need to know our history lessons. Besides, if SA couldn't play pace and swing, wouldn't good old England prepare grassy wickets to down them ? Hmm.. please think about it.

  • mishvik1 on August 15, 2012, 15:44 GMT

    @Pras_Punter - I don't know if you really follow English team. Please make your team win outside England (impossible task though) and then post such comments. The world saw how you crashed 3-0 to a low ranking team (Pak) outside your home conditions. I wish your team could play as well as they and you talk; probably you would have been No. 1 for years and not few months.

    So sit back relax and enjoy the last few days of being No. 1.

  • InnocentGuy on August 15, 2012, 14:39 GMT

    So the whole debate of India preparing wickets to suit their style is moot because every team does that. That's what is called 'home advantage'. I'm not saying that's a good thing but that is definitely not wrong. Why would they knowingly prepare a green and seaming pitch which will not only make things difficult for themselves but also suit the visitors? Why would any team prepare conditions that are unfavorable to themselves and favor the tourists? India would be stupid to prepare anything other than dust bowls when England come knocking. The ball zipping past right and left and the English batsmen looking like ducks flapping in the water is a sight that I cannot wait to watch!

  • keptalittlelow on August 15, 2012, 13:24 GMT

    Its going to be a monumental effort for England if they have to stay at top, chances are bleak though!!

  • cheguramana on August 15, 2012, 13:06 GMT

    Credit to SA team management for doing something different in preparing for a critical series. I hope SA beat England, get the No.1 ranking and get to bury the 'chokers' tag for good ! (altho that wl probably need a WC victory). Go SA !

  • Venki_indian on August 15, 2012, 13:01 GMT

    i hope SA wont choke this time...

  • PrasPunter on August 15, 2012, 12:19 GMT

    @Naksh, probably this is the reason why your team never wins abroad - doctoring a wicket to suit your great bowlers. You know what, the WI and Aus teams of the past used to win anywhere and everywhere and were the best !! They never prepared friendly wickets !! True legends, they are , aren't they ?!!

  • Venkat_Super_11 on August 15, 2012, 12:02 GMT

    Come on SA. You can do it. You deserve to be on the top. Good luck Proteas. But remember, nothing but an innings win will satisfy us.

  • Naksh on August 15, 2012, 10:19 GMT

    Guys... The English fans are bad losers as they've always been since ages. The English Cricket team can only win when there is cloud cover and green pitch. When the pitches are dry and climate is sunny, they struggle to win in England itself forget other countries... Their last Ashes win in Australia for e.g. in 3 of the 5 test matches there was cloud cover and rain looming large and no surprise they won the 3 games. in Perth which was dry and sunny they lost badly. same was the case in THE OVAL and Headingley. In LORDS if it is bright and sunny, I dont see England retaining the no.1 status. As far as Indian series is concerned, I sincerely hope BCCI prepares pitches which favour India's strength i.e SPIN from ball 1 and pay the English in their own coin as they did to us last year.

  • mthi4life on August 15, 2012, 9:26 GMT

    The Proteas are the most balanced side in the world they have proven that they can play on any kind of conditions in the past few years,I do not see them loosing this test.If England play well they might get a draw.

  • rahulcricket007 on August 15, 2012, 8:40 GMT

    @mattyp1979 . man are you serious ? are you thinking that india will serve a 4-0 to england just like they serve to you in last summer . remember , india in india ( or i should call in asia ) is an entirely different team . already some of the current indian crickters have set eye for taking revenge from england . if pitches were made dust bowls then god save england . i am not saying(prematurely like you) that india will win by 4-0 but definitely india will win the series . WE ARE INVINCIBLES AT HOME .

  • rahulcricket007 on August 15, 2012, 8:27 GMT

    @kevinsl . before a few days ago you were saying that sl can easily beat india by 5-0 . lolz what happened ? india won by 4-1 .

  • KunzMan on August 15, 2012, 7:59 GMT

    And its not only coz its coming from a SA cricket fan, but I actually appreciate the management trying 'non-cricketing' methods to get the mental strength in place. Might look like a joke should SA not win and all, but then atleast they are trying... Wishing the best team to win in the coming test.

  • KunzMan on August 15, 2012, 7:54 GMT

    Don't understand why the rankings are considered irrelevant. Being number 1 side in any format doesn't mean the team is deemed invincible and the best ever! Obviously, only if a side can 'dominate' world cricket in a format for a considerable period like WIs of 80s and the 90s n early 2000s Aussie domination. So if SA does end up getting number 1 ranking from England, so be it! There will always be a number 1. That's whats ranking is all about!

  • KEVINSL on August 15, 2012, 7:04 GMT

    England can bounce back.. Strongly believe England can beat overrate India

  • m1991vicky on August 15, 2012, 3:02 GMT

    @MattyP1979: OMG!!!! Seriously man, no regular follower of cricket could even dream of England beating India in a test series in India..... U guys could not do this for the past 27 years..... In this period u have won only a single test..... Last ODI series scorelines in India read 5-1, 5-0, 5-0..... Any guesses on the winner of those series??? You surely are kidding me :) lol :)

  • basophil on August 15, 2012, 2:29 GMT

    all the england fans expecting a surprise performance from england...let me ask: really??? name one current other team which, despite being blessed with the best batsmen, bowlers, and fielders in the world, would actually further their strength and character through such difficult exercises? even if this south africa team "chokes" as so many unappreciative fans call it, at the worst it will be a draw and south africa will still win the series

  • Cpt.Meanster on August 14, 2012, 21:56 GMT

    @MattyP1979: You are wishing a lot my friend. As an England supporter, you are entitled to wish your team well. However, you keep forgetting that even if England go on to hold onto their no.1 ranking, it will be a short lived proposition given they have a massive tour to India this winter. England's record in India is next to hopeless in all forms of the game. England are poor away from home, especially when there is zero pace and swing. It's been proven time and time again. Yet, some English fans are adamant that it is not the case. We shall see. Yet, England will find it hard to beat SA at Lords'. SA have the better side. KP was England's main weapon because of his flamboyance and exuberance as a stroke maker. The rest of the English batting looks frail, more so with 2 likely young guns in Bairstow and Taylor in the middle. So let's win this one first shall we and then talk about long term dominance.

  • CandidIndian on August 14, 2012, 21:30 GMT

    We will always be grateful to Gary for obvious reasons ,i dearly wish he succeeds in taking his team to no 1,however as a neutral cricket fan i feel that England will play much better than some people are expecting them to play.We should not forget that its a home series for England where they have achieved lot of success and also they have done very well in seaming conditions at away tours like Australia and SA,it can be anyone's game in Lords,no one has the upper hand .

  • CandidIndian on August 14, 2012, 21:28 GMT

    We will always be grateful to Gary for obvious reasons ,i dearly wish he succeeds in taking his team to no 1,however as a neutral cricket fan i feel that England will play much better than some people are expecting them to play.We should not forget that its a home series for England where they have achieved lot of success and also they have done very well in seaming conditions at away tours like Australia and SA,it can be anyone's game in Lords,no one has the upper hand .

  • vpisipati on August 14, 2012, 21:18 GMT

    To the Face(book)less person who commented about Test match rankings: Isn't it easier to rank 8 countries that can play test cricket against one another, rather than 200 countries. Honestly do not understand your logic!!

  • CSKftw on August 14, 2012, 21:10 GMT

    @MattyP1979

    Wishful thinking considering how apparently the same team you stuffed 4 zip demolished your team 5-0 in an ODI series a month later for the second time in 4 years in a country where your team hasn't won a series of ANY kind since 1985, not to mention the 3-0 drubbing at the hands of a much lower ranked Pakistan at a neutral venue. If anything your overrated team of attention seeking autobiography writers was lucky there wasn't a test series scheduled along with those ODI's because that would have been the shortest reign for any team as no.1.

  • thruthecovers on August 14, 2012, 20:54 GMT

    Can't help but feel the SA falling in the same trap the entire ENG camp did. I can understand when a journo asks you the question, you want to answer, but it seems all that comes out everyones mouths nowadays is this damned 'No 1 Test ranking'. Maybe Kirsten and co should set the journo's straight and make it clear that they will not be talking about Test rankings anymore. And besides if all they concentrate on is to play good, positive cricket, the rankings will take care of itself. They are good enough and have more than enough high-calibre players to win more matches than anyone else. Just concentrate on the cricket. When was the last time we heard the new SA mantra of it being " a process"? Seems they're already losing sight of themselves over this stupid ranking.They'll become the best and remain the best by beating all comers. Plain and simple

  • JerryV on August 14, 2012, 20:03 GMT

    @MattyP1979. I trust those comments are tongue in cheek. We are hopeless in Asia, most of all in India.

  • hhillbumper on August 14, 2012, 19:54 GMT

    be interesting to see which side Kp texts or tweets first

  • MattyP1979 on August 14, 2012, 19:12 GMT

    Eng down but not out. One test to go and if we win we remain top of the tree, if we lose it took another very good team to dislodge us. Everything to play for and I hope for an even better performance by Eng. Love to see JB play his natural game. Strauss is desperate for runs, and Swann will need to redeem himself. But lets face it we will need all to contribute to beat this SA team. Remember after this its all down hill, 4 nice easy tests against a team we stuffed 4 zip and then the truely highly over-rated Aussies back to back, so if we stay top come Mon we might be there a long time.

  • InnocentGuy on August 14, 2012, 19:02 GMT

    OMG, despite the whole KP brouhaha, I can't wait for Lord's. It's going to be a spectacular end to the series, I'm hoping!

  • on August 14, 2012, 18:10 GMT

    Don't really get the point of having Test World Rankings I mean only 8 countries of more than 200 compete in that form of the game if you honestly think about it :)

  • on August 14, 2012, 17:44 GMT

    Interesting piece. This, the very preparation that people deemed to not be preparation enough, seems to be working. The guys will need to draw on every single gram of those extra reserves at Lords against an ENG side who should, at least for once in the series, show us why they are ranked ahead of us.. Wishing the SA guys the best of luck. PURE PROTEA!!!

  • on August 14, 2012, 17:40 GMT

    what an anti-climax it would turn out to be if England wins the final test amidst the Pietersen show and all this endless talk and hype of no.1 and how South Africa have been so impeccably amazing right from their preparations to the mental conditioning to the execution of every department and all is so wonderfully rosy and blah blah blah...it's getting a little too much with so much glory-writing; sounds like south africa is counting their chickens before they hatch...just get the final test done with and then let it gob!

    ho ho, from a neutral stance, I'd love the anti-climax! :D will teach the chokers that talking lesser is the way to be no.1. That's what thing I like about Dhoni and team India no matter how embarrassingly they lose....Go England!

  • rivernile on August 14, 2012, 17:18 GMT

    Whats the big deal? England too have their source of inspiration, in the form of 'KP and his world of Twitter'. Trying asking Mr. Horn to top that!

  • on August 14, 2012, 17:05 GMT

    When I first read "called on a special assistant" I thought it might be KP ;)

  • phoenixsteve on August 14, 2012, 16:35 GMT

    There's little doubt that SA have the upper hand in the decisive Lords test and they may well go on to achieve the "number 1 test side" label! It's still totally meaningless though and England's all too brief holding of this title proves this! Whilst the England management seem hell bent on self destruction it it is interesting that SA are trying to cement their mental stremgth? Perhaps the current title of "number 1 chokers side" is getting to them! It'll be hard for them to swallow defeat at Lords though and I guess this must be England's glimmer of hope? Personally I'm sick and tired of all this KP/textgate saga. Everybody concerned has come out of this looking like petulant schoolkids.... and I mean everybody! Good luck to JT and JB.......COME ON ENGLAND!!!

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  • phoenixsteve on August 14, 2012, 16:35 GMT

    There's little doubt that SA have the upper hand in the decisive Lords test and they may well go on to achieve the "number 1 test side" label! It's still totally meaningless though and England's all too brief holding of this title proves this! Whilst the England management seem hell bent on self destruction it it is interesting that SA are trying to cement their mental stremgth? Perhaps the current title of "number 1 chokers side" is getting to them! It'll be hard for them to swallow defeat at Lords though and I guess this must be England's glimmer of hope? Personally I'm sick and tired of all this KP/textgate saga. Everybody concerned has come out of this looking like petulant schoolkids.... and I mean everybody! Good luck to JT and JB.......COME ON ENGLAND!!!

  • on August 14, 2012, 17:05 GMT

    When I first read "called on a special assistant" I thought it might be KP ;)

  • rivernile on August 14, 2012, 17:18 GMT

    Whats the big deal? England too have their source of inspiration, in the form of 'KP and his world of Twitter'. Trying asking Mr. Horn to top that!

  • on August 14, 2012, 17:40 GMT

    what an anti-climax it would turn out to be if England wins the final test amidst the Pietersen show and all this endless talk and hype of no.1 and how South Africa have been so impeccably amazing right from their preparations to the mental conditioning to the execution of every department and all is so wonderfully rosy and blah blah blah...it's getting a little too much with so much glory-writing; sounds like south africa is counting their chickens before they hatch...just get the final test done with and then let it gob!

    ho ho, from a neutral stance, I'd love the anti-climax! :D will teach the chokers that talking lesser is the way to be no.1. That's what thing I like about Dhoni and team India no matter how embarrassingly they lose....Go England!

  • on August 14, 2012, 17:44 GMT

    Interesting piece. This, the very preparation that people deemed to not be preparation enough, seems to be working. The guys will need to draw on every single gram of those extra reserves at Lords against an ENG side who should, at least for once in the series, show us why they are ranked ahead of us.. Wishing the SA guys the best of luck. PURE PROTEA!!!

  • on August 14, 2012, 18:10 GMT

    Don't really get the point of having Test World Rankings I mean only 8 countries of more than 200 compete in that form of the game if you honestly think about it :)

  • InnocentGuy on August 14, 2012, 19:02 GMT

    OMG, despite the whole KP brouhaha, I can't wait for Lord's. It's going to be a spectacular end to the series, I'm hoping!

  • MattyP1979 on August 14, 2012, 19:12 GMT

    Eng down but not out. One test to go and if we win we remain top of the tree, if we lose it took another very good team to dislodge us. Everything to play for and I hope for an even better performance by Eng. Love to see JB play his natural game. Strauss is desperate for runs, and Swann will need to redeem himself. But lets face it we will need all to contribute to beat this SA team. Remember after this its all down hill, 4 nice easy tests against a team we stuffed 4 zip and then the truely highly over-rated Aussies back to back, so if we stay top come Mon we might be there a long time.

  • hhillbumper on August 14, 2012, 19:54 GMT

    be interesting to see which side Kp texts or tweets first

  • JerryV on August 14, 2012, 20:03 GMT

    @MattyP1979. I trust those comments are tongue in cheek. We are hopeless in Asia, most of all in India.