New Zealand go into SA T20s with 'optimism'
Adapting to foreign conditions is the test all touring teams want to pass on the road. South Africa have become masters of that art, having not lost a series away from home since 2006. New Zealand, with wins in Hobart and Colombo in the last year, are still learning.
The shortest format may be the ideal place to do that. With conditions only playing a small role and margins between teams much smaller, Twenty20 cricket is where teams like New Zealand hope to compete when they come up against a side with the reputation and form of South Africa.
"We can go into the T20 series with a great deal of optimism" Bob Carter, the New Zealand assistant coach, said. "We're very much up for it. The boys have gone into their training really well, with lots of energy, and we're really looking forward to the challenge of playing in South Africa. Who wouldn't? It's a good place to tour and there are exciting times here with cricket."
The sport has captured the attention of the public after the South African Test team rose to No.1 on the Test rankings in August with victory in England and stayed there when they beat Australia in their own backyard. Since scaling those heights, South Africa have not played in front of their home fans, who are eager to watch their team in action again.
But they will have to cheer on a new-look side. South Africa's T20 squad contains four uncapped players and a new captain as they attempt to revolutionise things ahead of the next ICC tournament.
It's with that in mind that New Zealand go into the series. Allrounder James Franklin does not think there is "too much to fear" even though his team is the clear underdog. "We have to pick our ranking up and the only way we can do that is by winning," he said.
New Zealand too have five uncapped players in their squad, some of whom will get a run in the practice match on Tuesday against South Africa A. For them, having these fresh faces around is "exciting", as Franklin and Carter put it. "Theirs is youthful exuberance, they've got no baggage and they just want to get stuck in and see where they fit in terms of the team and international cricket," Franklin said. "You've got to run a little bit faster and try and keep up with them. But hopefully it will rub of both ways. They rub off on me in terms of me trying to keep up and from me, if they want, a little bit of guidance."
These young players bring a fresh energy to the squad, which had been weighed down by internal strife, including the withdrawal of Ross Taylor, before the tour. "Their enthusiasm, their joy at being picked for New Zealand and the way they have gone about their business has been really good," Carter said. "They have really flung themselves at training and it's good to have them on board."
Carter also had a word of warning for the team about their opposition. "[Even with the newcomers] South Africa have still got a very fine side with Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel and others," he said. "That will be a really good test for us and a really good challenge. Every South African side is a good one."
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent