The advantage of being a home team is you have a better understanding of conditions than your opposition, but that may not be the case when South Africa host New Zealand next month. Kane Williamson's men will have spent a significant amount of time in the country ahead of their two-Test series, thanks to a training camp at the University of Pretoria's High Performance Centre organised by former New Zealand player Kruger van Wyk.
The wicketkeeper-batsman, originally from South Africa, had retired from cricket in December and returned home to take charge of the University's cricket program, which he himself had come through. Van Wyk has an intricate knowledge of the High Performance Centre, which is home to CSA's National Academy and hosts several other elite sports teams at its state-of-the-art facilities. He knew it would be the ideal place for New Zealand to prepare for the four Tests they play in southern Africa - two in Zimbabwe, two in South Africa - this winter.
"I know what it's like to tour, to want to get the best preparation and I had no doubt that we could help them with that," van Wyk said. In particular, he has focussed on giving New Zealand the kinds of surfaces they will encounter in Bulawayo, Durban and Centurion, which are all expected to be slow and low at this time of year. "It's important that they [the pitches] are similar to the Zimbabwe ones, similar to the ones they'll get here. As a player, whatever you need, you get. That's our motto. Whatever you guys need, we're going to give it to you and give it at a high level of professionalism as well, so I hope the boys enjoy it as well while they're here."
With New Zealand's every need being met, van Wyk's loyalties were a subject of discussion and he made no attempt to hide where they lie. "I think it's going to be an awesome series. It's very clear who I want to see do well. These are the guys who I played for, and my priorities, even though I'm coaching and living in South Africa at the moment, it's still with the New Zealand side," he said. "I've played Test cricket for New Zealand and I'm proud of that. But I think it's going to be a hell of a good series and I'm so excited about seeing that and I really believe this is a good opportunity to get a double Test series victory."
Key to New Zealand's recent success has been their team culture, which is centered on the collective and has exuded a fun-factor for all involved. For van Wyk, that is the difference. "It's been wonderful, actually. I think there's been such a new life blown into cricket in New Zealand and that was just through the culture in this side. Mike [Hesson, the coach] and Baz [Brendon McCullum] and Kane and a lot of the senior players must take massive credit for this. They've done some wonderful things for the image of the game and just the way they've played as well. That's the best way to get fans back, to get all these sorts of things back, ex-players, and their performances have been outstanding and I know it will only grow under Kane and Mike as well."
That culture exists even among those, like van Wyk, who have left the New Zealand fold. "As a coach, and as an ex-player, I think a lot of it is about giving back to the game, giving back to the people who've always been good to you. I am extremely thankful towards New Zealand cricket who've always been good to me and it's time to give back," he said. "Tukkies [University of Pretoria] was an institution that put a lot of time and effort into my development when I was a youngster here, so it's the best of both worlds."