South Africa cricket February 6, 2014

Braai and bonding on SA's agenda

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While Australia will spend the next two days playing an inter-squad match on a wearing Wanderers pitch, South Africa will be braaing fireside, counting stars and darting rhinos. They're headed to the town of Hoedspruit, close to the Kruger National Park and about as far as you can get from competitive cricket.

"We all love the bush so we're just going to have a couple days to push the reset button," AB de Villiers explained. "I find the bush is good for the soul. It just slows things down a little bit."

Although the South African squad have not played any international cricket in five weeks, the players have mostly been occupied with the domestic twenty-over competition, so the time has been anything but quiet. As a squad, they were separated before this week and with a high-profile series against opposition who are known for their ability to push on any weak spots, they feel a need to, as de Villiers put it "reconnect."

The South African squad will spend Friday and Saturday in the company of the retired wicket-keeper Mark Boucher and members of the Rhinos in Safe Hands campaign. On one of the afternoons, they will assist in darting a rhino - in effect tranquilize the animal - to collect a DNA sample which will be entered into a database. The idea is that if the rhino is poached for its horn and a sample is then found, there could be grounds to prosecute the offender.

Boucher has been involved in the campaign since he was forced to give up the gloves because of his eye injury and, occasionally, members of the South African squad have accompanied him. Graeme Smith and Jacques Kallis were two that were involved a few months ago and now the rest will join in. "A lot of the guys have never been that close to a rhino that you can actually touch it, so that's going to be something new," de Villiers said.

Activities like these are the sports squads' equivalent of team-building. It sounds funny because they are actually a team and it is thought that they wouldn't need anything to make them feel more like one. But occasionally they need to be reminded of the ties that bind, like South Africa were in Switzerland ahead of the series against England in July-August 2012.

Then, they spent a week with Mike Horn, cycling, climbing mountains and engaging in other physically challenging tasks, which verged on extreme sports. It was a week designed to push them to every limit so that they could see how far they could go. "It was very busy, we had lectures and meetings and strategising and a lot of activities," de Villiers said.

The exertions paid off. South Africa went on to beat England 2-0 and claimed the Test mace. They have held on to it since, triumphing over Australia in Australia, sweeping a home summer against New Zealand and Pakistan, in which no match went to a fifth day, beating Pakistan in the UAE and India at home.

It's fair to say Australia at home is the biggest challenge of that lot. South Africa have defeated Australia in a series in Australia twice but not at home since readmission. With the next profile series coming in as long as two years, against England in the summer of 2015-16, this is the contest South Africa want to win to confirm their authority over the No.1 ranking.

To prepare for that, they're taking another time-out, albeit a less busy one ahead of this series. This time, the focus is on spending time together in a way South Africans love to when they have time off. Chances are the cellphone reception will be patchy, if it exists at all, the team's partners are not traveling with them and for most of the time, the only thing they will have to do is talk to each other.

They may not discuss much cricket at all, which will probably bring them closer together. They hope to come back a unit so strong that Australia will not be able to find ways through and if that is the case, they believe they will break the duck against Australia at home and end of their summer on a massive high.

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • POSTED BY craigals on | February 7, 2014, 5:38 GMT

    Sadly Firdose, we only drew the series against Pakistan in the UAE...

  • POSTED BY Shongololo on | February 7, 2014, 3:04 GMT

    Damien, I'll give you the strong tip: Marsh won't be firing as he's thousands of miles away, at home, nursing a calf injury!

  • POSTED BY espncricinfomobile on | February 6, 2014, 20:24 GMT

    So excited by the prospect of this series. Even as a one-eyed Australian, I just can't see how Australia can win this series. Even though the Aus attack is on-par (at best) with the Saffas, they've got Amla, Smith, AB and Faf in their top order (and they're four of the world's best batsmen. Aus has Clarke... And only if his back holds up... I love Watson, Marsh and Warner, but the chance of them all firing, throughout the series is akin to a fly without wings successfully walking through Frog lake unscathed. Looking forward to it, but can't see Aus pulling this one out of the hat!

  • POSTED BY USSHR on | February 6, 2014, 18:52 GMT

    Hope indians too get Mental & Team Bonding preparations like this in near future apart from mandatory tour matches before the actual series starts abroad...Jai Ho

  • POSTED BY craigals on | February 7, 2014, 5:38 GMT

    Sadly Firdose, we only drew the series against Pakistan in the UAE...

  • POSTED BY Shongololo on | February 7, 2014, 3:04 GMT

    Damien, I'll give you the strong tip: Marsh won't be firing as he's thousands of miles away, at home, nursing a calf injury!

  • POSTED BY espncricinfomobile on | February 6, 2014, 20:24 GMT

    So excited by the prospect of this series. Even as a one-eyed Australian, I just can't see how Australia can win this series. Even though the Aus attack is on-par (at best) with the Saffas, they've got Amla, Smith, AB and Faf in their top order (and they're four of the world's best batsmen. Aus has Clarke... And only if his back holds up... I love Watson, Marsh and Warner, but the chance of them all firing, throughout the series is akin to a fly without wings successfully walking through Frog lake unscathed. Looking forward to it, but can't see Aus pulling this one out of the hat!

  • POSTED BY USSHR on | February 6, 2014, 18:52 GMT

    Hope indians too get Mental & Team Bonding preparations like this in near future apart from mandatory tour matches before the actual series starts abroad...Jai Ho

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  • POSTED BY USSHR on | February 6, 2014, 18:52 GMT

    Hope indians too get Mental & Team Bonding preparations like this in near future apart from mandatory tour matches before the actual series starts abroad...Jai Ho

  • POSTED BY espncricinfomobile on | February 6, 2014, 20:24 GMT

    So excited by the prospect of this series. Even as a one-eyed Australian, I just can't see how Australia can win this series. Even though the Aus attack is on-par (at best) with the Saffas, they've got Amla, Smith, AB and Faf in their top order (and they're four of the world's best batsmen. Aus has Clarke... And only if his back holds up... I love Watson, Marsh and Warner, but the chance of them all firing, throughout the series is akin to a fly without wings successfully walking through Frog lake unscathed. Looking forward to it, but can't see Aus pulling this one out of the hat!

  • POSTED BY Shongololo on | February 7, 2014, 3:04 GMT

    Damien, I'll give you the strong tip: Marsh won't be firing as he's thousands of miles away, at home, nursing a calf injury!

  • POSTED BY craigals on | February 7, 2014, 5:38 GMT

    Sadly Firdose, we only drew the series against Pakistan in the UAE...