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December 13, 2012
Preview : SA selectors looking for new blood
News : McCullum hoping for Ryder and Taylor's return
News : McCullum takes over as New Zealand captain
News : Vettori out of South Africa Tests
Players/Officials: AB de Villiers
Series/Tournaments: New Zealand tour of South Africa
South Africa will not take their summer series lightly, even though they are of a significantly lower-profile than the contests fought earlier in the year. New Zealand do not present the same challenge as England or Australia but South Africa want to use their home fixtures to show why they are the top-ranked Test team.
"We have to play as well as we played in Australia to showcase the fact that we are No.1 in the world in Test cricket," AB de Villiers, the team's limited-overs captain said. "And we also want to do well at home."
Since claiming the Test mace in England, South Africa have not played in front of their own fans or in their own stadiums: places where they have been less ruthless than on the road. This season, de Villiers said, that will change. With no hoodoo Boxing Day Test in Durban - and no Test at Kingsmead at all - South Africa have no monkeys to get off their backs and New Zealand have been warned to expect a hostile reception.
"We understand that we are the favourites and we should win if we play good cricket," de Villiers said. "We've got the mental advantage but we still have to play well. They are one of those teams that when they get it right, they are hard to beat."
South Africa did not wipe the floor with New Zealand when they visited them earlier in the year and experienced some of the stubborn resistance that they are capable of. Kane Williamson held off a determined attack, despite being struck a painful blow in the box, to deny South Africa victory in the Wellington Test while South Africa needed last over heroics from Marchant de Lange to win the Twenty20 series.
De Villiers expects the limited-overs matches to be more closely contested because that is where New Zealand can pose the biggest threat. "New Zealand are a very busy team and they have a very good fielding unit so that's what makes them good in the T20s and ODIs," he said. "They've had a few upsets to their Test team so they are still finding their feet but they are more dangerous in T20s and ODIs. They've got a few big hitters, they run well between the wickets and they've got good skill with the bowlers."
The "upsets" de Villiers referred to centre on the withdrawal of Ross Taylor from the tour following a captaincy dispute with coach Mike Hesson. Not only have New Zealand lost their captain as a result of the fracas, but also the mainstay of their batting order. Many South Africa players have sympathised with Taylor's plight with Hashim Amla posting on Twitter that he feels for Taylor, and de Villiers saying he would like to see him "come back to cricket soon."
But New Zealand will also be without another stalwart. Daniel Vettori has not recovered from injury and his absence is what de Villiers thinks New Zealand will miss most. "Dan is one of the biggest threats in their team so not having him is a big blow," he said.
The tour starts next Friday with a Twenty20 in Durban but the first Test will only be played next year - the traditional New Year's Test in Cape Town.
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondentFeeds: Firdose Moonda
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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Plays of the Day from the second ODI between England and India, in Cardiff
Plays of the day from the third ODI between England and India at Trent Bridge