South Africa in New Zealand 2011-12 February 13, 2012

de Villiers not out to avenge World Cup defeat


The truth about sport is that it is played as much in the mind as it is on the field. For South Africa's cricket team it is sometimes played entirely in the mind. During their tour of New Zealand, South Africa will not only face a test of skill but also one of temperament, against an opponent known for shrewdness, particularly at mind games.

"There's always a little bit of this and that when we play New Zealand, especially the last time we met in the World Cup," AB de Villiers, South Africa's ODI and Twenty20 captain, said on arrival in Wellington. "They won that game and we have a lot to prove in this series. I'm sure the game will be played very hard on the field but we are friends with most of the guys off the field."

In that World Cup quarter-final in Mirpur, New Zealand exerted tremendous pressure on South Africa, who were chasing a target of 222. There was a flashpoint after AB de Villiers was run out and several New Zealand players exchanged words with the other batsman Faf du Plessis. South Africa's chase unraveled and they collapsed for 172, when they had been 108 for 2 at one stage.

de Villiers said South Africa had "moved on" from that defeat and that this tour was not a revenge mission. "Obviously it hurt but we have new goals now and a lot to look forward to. We are a new unit with fresh faces. We play a different kind of cricket to what we have in the last few years. Mentally, we will have to be tested to see how strong we are."

Gary Kirsten, who became South Africa's coach only after the World Cup, preferred to focus on the cricket and not on verbal duels. "I don't think we are going to think too much about what New Zealand are doing. If we play really good cricket in terms of our skills and don't say anything, we will win more games than we will lose," Kirsten said. "If New Zealand feel that they want to get verbal with us, that's their business. The side that plays better cricket is going to win."

Both South Africa and New Zealand have momentum going into the series. South Africa beat Sri Lanka at home, and New Zealand just thrashed Zimbabwe in all formats. Despite the quality of New Zealand's opposition, de Villiers said they made a strong statement of intent. "I won't say it gave them a false sense of confidence because they really played well," de Villiers said. "But still, I'd like to say we are a better unit than Zimbabwe. We should be more competitive and we are going to go out there to win games."

Since de Villiers became the limited-overs captain, South Africa have been more aggressive and creative than before. "I like to try things. I like to be attacking. I am really enjoying it so far but I have only captained five games, so a lot to learn," de Villiers said. "I enjoy playing around with bowlers, with field placings as well. I like to stay one step ahead of the batters, to try and think what they are thinking about. I also like to think what I would find uncomfortable at the wicket, but it doesn't always pay off."

New Zealand is the first of three overseas tours for South Africa and a 3-0 victory in the Tests will earn them the No. 1 ranking. Kirsten said the management team had worked with the players to contextualise the New Zealand series. "We've got long-term plans and this is just another tour which is part of the process," he said. "We believe we have to put performances together in different parts of the world and this is an important tour for us in terms of what we want to achieve in the long term."

The tour comprises three T20s, three ODIs and three Tests. They start their visit with a T20 against Christchurch as part of the Earthquake Relief Campaign on Wednesday. The first international T20 is in Wellington on February 17.

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Sinhaya on February 15, 2012, 16:59 GMT

    @Spelele, have you forgotten that New Zealand beat Australia in Australia 2 months ago? Have you forgotten about Doug Bracewell's heroics? SA batsmen are weak and that is why they lost the 2nd test to Sri Lanka. SA bowling is weak and that is why they could not defend 300 plus scores against Sri Lanka. NZ have great batsmen like Williamson, Guptill, McCullum, Ryder, Brownlie, Taylor, Vettori who will blitz the SA bowlers in style! 3-0 TRIUMPH FOR NZ FOR SURE IN ALL 3 FORMATS!

  • zn264 on February 15, 2012, 9:32 GMT

    Time for NZ to drop the clutch on these old boys! Our new batsmen will love the ball coming on to the bat, watch out for Guppy and Kane in the Tests, with Baz and Taylor sending it over the fence in the ODIs. We cleanded you up in the ODI series in 2004 when you came over with an even stronger side, this time we're ready to the busines in the 5 dayiers. LOOK OUT!!!

  • zenboomerang on February 15, 2012, 5:08 GMT

    On paper SA look very strong but I back the Kiwi's to give as much as they take... NZ is a new look team from only a few years ago & have some talented players coming through now... Still I wish they had a good allrounder (like Christian/Marsh/Butterworth) as Southee hasn't been much of a wkt taker in recent Tests (Zim/Aus) & could be the weak link in the team - hope I'm wrong...

  • Ranwick on February 14, 2012, 23:50 GMT

    SA and their captain know all about sledging. I recently watched one of the ODIs against Sri Lanka and de Villiers was talking smack almost every ball from behind the stumps, so much so that he was making the game unbearable to watch, mainly due to it sounding as if he was wearing the microphone on his head. I also recall one of the commentators alluding to AB's mouth and the other one say that he did a very good job.

    Players can sledge if they want as long as they are prepared to take it when it happens to them. I enjoy it because of the effect it has on game and the players. It can make a boring game interesting to watch and help a team that looks down and out claw their way back.

    Anyhow, I expect SA to have a good test series against us as they are clearly are a class above in both batting and bowling. However, if we manage to take the ODI series it could give us enough confidence to snatch one of the test matches which would be a great feat for this team.

  • Mprezd on February 14, 2012, 23:27 GMT

    @ Spelele I suggest you continue to write the kiwis off. Just like everyone did at the WC 1/4 final. No one gave them a hope. And they embarrassed the proteas.

    Doug Bracewell not performing against Zimbabwe? In what? 1 20/20 game. Which really isn't his format given his attacking nature. He's had a great start to his test career - including bowling us to a win over the Aussies.

    Remember it wasn't that long ago that you lost 2 tests to Aussie and Sri Lanka. And you had the human run machine bowling at you in Mitchell Johnson.

    I still think the proteas will win the test series, but I don't think it will be a whitewash. If NZ stick to their discipline they will still frustrate the proteas and keep themselves in the game. 20/20 and ODI's are up in the air. I hope Ronnie Hira gets a go in the ODI team actually, but McCullum will likely be the spin option with Nicol and Williamson providing backup.

  • BHAARATVARSH on February 14, 2012, 22:26 GMT

    supporting S.Africa this series!

    c'mon Saffers... win the series and become #1 in Test match format :-))

  • dummy4fb on February 14, 2012, 17:28 GMT

    Its REVENGE TIME! dear Kiwis, we'r not Zim, we'r Proteas! we'll smash u hard at ur home, we'll do it in style unlike Kiwis who made their WC victory ugly by themselves >:(

  • lananad on February 14, 2012, 17:20 GMT

    No use of all the big talks now SA, You guys lost the most important game in the WC. You'll need to prove that you guys can perform well under pressure. first of all....Win a big tournament and then dream.... SA has a long way to go...

  • dummy4fb on February 14, 2012, 17:04 GMT

    @ spelele! Don't underestimate the kiwis. They are very much capable of beating the proteas in tests. Btw, i am a south afrcan fan my self !

  • moloko on February 14, 2012, 14:06 GMT

    the proteas should win the test series comfortably, however a whitewash is a bit too much, cz the proteas are very inconsitent at test level, i think we will win the test series 2-0. the t20s and the odis very difficult to predict as new zealand are a good one day side and in their own conditions should be tough for our boys. the test squad i dont knw why lonwabo tsotsobe is part of the test squad, i think wayne parnell and merchant de lange are better bowlers at test level then lonwabo tsotsobe. good luck boys, the test series is exteremely important, i dont think coach gary will worry too much if we loose the t20 and odi series, since he is stil exploring

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