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

The turf South Africa can make their own

Eden Park is not South Africa's turf but on two days in another area, in another generation, in a different sporting code, it was. And that may be all they need to remember

South Africa have won three and lost as many matches at Eden Park against New Zealand © Getty Images

New Zealand. South Africa. Eden Park. Big matches. Now the biggest. And the irony? It's not even rugby. 

South Africa's cricketers face the biggest challenge of their ODI careers when they take on New Zealand at the place their 1921 rugby side christened by playing the venue's first rugby Test and their 1937 side won at to earn the title of the best team to leave New Zealand. The Springboks have not won at Eden Park since, and the cricketers have a superior record at the ground (three wins from seven completed matches compared to two from ten), but AB de Villiers will still want to take inspiration from the double World Cup winning rugby side as his men go in search of a first one. 

The Springboks built tournament success around their biggest names and brute force. Likewise, this is the occasion for the Proteas' most potent players to step up. 

Hashim Amla, de Villiers and Dale Steyn have owned moments of games so far but have not needed to take it on themselves to single-handedly win a match. De Villiers' record-breaking 162 was eye-catching but only served to rub salt in an openly wounded West Indies' side. Amla's century against Ireland could be regarded in much the same light.

Both performances served to confirm the quality of the men producing them, they did not come in South Africa's hour of real need. Steyn got closer to that when he played a role in opening up Sri Lanka but it was Imran Tahir's wily weaving that did the rest. All three of these players are what Francois Pienaar, Victor Matfield and Bryan Habana are to the Springboks: the heart, the brain, the veins. They will have to decide which direction the blood should flow. 

But that does not mean individual brilliance cannot come from outside that circle. Jannie de Beer scored five drop goals in a quarter-final in 1999 to knock England out. South Africa will need a few wildcards and on that score they have everyone prepped. Five of the top six have scored centuries so far and the one who hasn't, Quinton de Kock, is fresh of a redeeming half-century which justified the decision to stick with him even as he battled to find form. 

South Africa's leading bowler is not Steyn. Tahir leads the charts, Morne Morkel is next. Between them, they are proving difficult for batsmen to get away and South Africa are holding out hope Vernon Philander will join that club. Philander has been battling a hamstring injury but has performances in New Zealand which surpass what he has done anywhere else where he has played at least five ODIs. 

Philander has an average of 16.12 in New Zealand and with that record in mind, South Africa will have to make their biggest call ahead of the crunch game: whether to go back to Philander or stick with Kyle Abbott. De Villiers called it a "difficult" selection so do not be surprised if South Africa do as the Springboks would have done when things get tricky and go back to what they know they can depend on. 

Trust has been the basis for a lot of Springbok success. The players have always backed each other to come good and the country has backed them because of it. The cricket team is trying to evoke that same sentiment. 

Already, they have shown an immense faith in their own abilities, so much so that a day before both their quarter-final and semi-final clashes, they have skipped training to concentrate on some of the other areas of preparation. The mental areas. The areas that can only be addressed away from the field. The areas that prompt hot heads to stay cool when all calm has dissipated. 

South Africa will need that. Their lids have been known to pop off when the pressure cooker gets too hot, but in the quarter-final they showed that is not always the case. Then, they were the ones controlling the temperature when they took early wickets and gave themselves an easier job than was anticipated. They may not be able to have as much of a say at Eden Park. 

It is not their turf even if they claim to have a solid understanding of its "unusual corners and angles," as de Villiers put it. It is not their turf even if they know the short straight boundary was made for de Villiers and David Miller to clear. It is not their turf even though the dimensions even invite bowlers to hold back their lengths and the bouncer is one of South Africa's weapons of choice. It is not their turf but on two days in another area, in another generation, in a different sporting code, it was. And that may be all they need to remember. 

New Zealand. South Africa. Eden Park. Big matches. The biggest and it's cricket. You'd better believe it.

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent

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