New Zealand v South Africa, World Cup 2015, 1st semi-final, Auckland March 23, 2015

The final words before the final frontier

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'Confident going into our biggest day' - De Villiers

Before AB de Villiers and Brendon McCullum attempt to bat their opposition away, literally, before they have to set a field or decide on a bowling change, even before they toss the coin, they will have to perform another, and perhaps more important job. The two men will issue the final words of instructions to their respective teams in the hope it will inspire them to go where they have never been before: the final of a World Cup. 

De Villiers has not yet decided what he will say but he knows it will come to him when he gets to Eden Park and gauges the mood. "I'll have a little look about what they're feeling when we get to the ground. At warm-ups you normally get a good indication of where the guys are at, and then the right words will be said in that little huddle," he said. 

It will be vital for South Africa that de Villiers delivers as promised because it was at this same ground where he felt an absence of an "electric vibe," when South Africa played Pakistan. No matter what he did that day, de Villiers could not spark them but he said he trusts his team will be "up for it," and knows what to do if they aren't. "I get a feeling of what the energy is like. It's pretty easy to pick up when you've spent a lot of time with the guys. I know what makes them tick, and I know what irritates them as well. Sometimes it's important to irritate them, to get the best out of them. It's a matter of reading the situation and trusting my gut."

McCullum does not seem to have the same concern and has already had his speech prepared for a while. "It will be no different to every other game," he said.

It's not the one you see on the ANZ adverts - "Dream big New Zealand," but it's close. "We talk a lot about this being the greatest time of our lives and the trip that we've been on so far has been one that we'll all remember. The game is meant to be fun, go out there, express yourself, enjoy the occasion, put our best foot forward, and we'll see where the cards fall after that," McCullum said. 

After those words are spoken, both captains hope that will be the end of the talking, although the teams' histories suggest otherwise. In 2011, at the quarter-final, Faf du Plessis and Kyle Mills were involved in an on-field scuffle which prompted South Africa's unraveling. That was where de Villiers saw the usually "gentlemanlike" New Zealand "go for what they want," and he is wary the same may happen tomorrow. 

If it does, de Villiers will stay out of it and encourage his men to do the same. "I personally don't like to get involved vocally too much. It's all about the confidence and the body language. I think I say enough with the way I go about my business personally as a player, and I'm expecting the team to do the same," he said. 

But McCullum has indicated things will not go that far, because he believes both sides have matured from that day. "I think both teams have grown up immensely in that time, and we're different teams and play the game in different spirit, and I would expect us to go out there and focus purely on displaying our skills, trying to be as good as what we can with ball, bat and in the field, and leave nothing out there in terms of our heart and our soul and trying to be as desperate as we can," he said. 

"Sledging is not how we want to play the game. I think other teams will do that sort of thing, but for us, we're not good enough to have that as our focus. We need to make sure that we're respectful of the game and how we go about our work." Because afterwards, McCullum would like the two camps to get together to celebrate, commiserate and just be cricketing colleagues.

"The way the cricket has gone now, you play so much cricket around the world against teams and against guys and you form relationships and obviously IPL helps with that as well. When you're out on the field representing your country, you've got a duty to ensure that you go out and you try to perform at your absolute best. Tomorrow is no different to that. Whether you win or you lose we'll catch up after the game, and whoever loses will wish the team all the best for the final, and whoever wins I'm sure will be gracious about that."

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Jennifer on March 24, 2015, 3:19 GMT

    This is why I love both these teams. And I want one of these teams to go on to win the World Cup.

  • David on March 23, 2015, 22:51 GMT

    "Sledging is not how we want to play the game." Gotta respect these guys. Love it.

  • Dummy4 on March 23, 2015, 22:20 GMT

    I'm an avid SA supporter, who has loved watching the way NZ have played so far and have so much respect for that. I hope for an entertaining game, but mostly that the winner goes on to win the final.

  • Dummy4 on March 23, 2015, 20:41 GMT

    I guess the good thing about what turned out to be be four complete mismatches in the quarters, these semis are set up as clashes between the very best teams.

  • sap on March 23, 2015, 19:59 GMT

    cricket fan from every country will be happy ultimately if either of this team lifts this WC....

  • Dummy4 on March 23, 2015, 18:15 GMT

    Cricket lovers want a close game. A game that is good for batsmen and bowlers

  • Kirthi on March 23, 2015, 17:39 GMT

    Ahhhhh! McCullum and de Villiers. Absolutely love them. No matter who wins, I will be cheering for both. However, just watching the way these guys have played in this tournament, I am leaning a tad bit towards NZ. Wouldn't mind any one of these two lifting up the trophy!

  • Dummy4 on March 23, 2015, 17:34 GMT

    What McCullm has said is right.Its the game of cricket to be played in the right spirit .As an individual have a very respect for both the captains and both the teams.It will be a fantastic match hopefully as both the teams will try their level best to qualify for their first ever final , for the other the chance is lost for next 4 years.Both teams have good bowlers, attacking batsmen and both sides are exceptionally good fielders. I think the very important factor will be the pressure of the game and mentally tough side and the side which will keep their heads cool will win.

  • Dummy4 on March 23, 2015, 16:42 GMT

    So much respect for McCullum and de Villiers. Not only great captains and leaders, but good sportsmen and all-round nice guys. May the best man/team win.

  • Dummy4 on March 23, 2015, 14:19 GMT

    Well my heart says it will be saffas . All the best AB!

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