There's a lot at stake, it's a big-pressure final - de Villiers

AB de Villiers brought it up first this time. South Africa are heading back to Eden Park for a winner-takes-all showdown. And it's not a one-off T20I this time.

Neither is it a World Cup semi-final, but with the Champions Trophy looming, it is not irrelevant.

Throughout the first few days of this tour, every South African player put up for interview was asked for memories of the famous semi-final almost two years ago. The general mood was that it would always be part of their history, but it's time to move on.

After winning the T20, de Villiers smiled when he said he had seen endless runs of the semi-final on TV since arriving in New Zealand and added that time had helped him see "only good things" about the game.

Now, after seeing this series levelled on the back of Martin Guptill's unbeaten 138-ball 180, de Villiers hinted at South Africa's history with the venue for the deciding encounter.

"There's a big final to play, there's a lot at stake, it's a big-pressure game," he said. "It would be great for us to come through a big-pressure game like that, especially at Eden Park. We won the T20 and it would be great to win the ODI and finish this leg of the tour on a high. We haven't yet hit our straps as we wanted to, yet, in both departments, so hopefully it will happen in the last game."

Twice he called Saturday's match a "pressure game" and twice he termed it a "final" - a combination of factors that haunts South African cricket history. Even a decider of a bilateral series - during which South Africa have seen their No. 1 ranking slip away - can't replicate the significance of a global tournament semi-final, but it's the closest they will get before it comes to crunch time at the Champions Trophy.

No one came into this series with a bigger reputation than Imran Tahir. He is ranked No. 1 in both white-ball formats and claimed 5 for 24 in the T20 victory. However, in the ODIs he has been kept quiet with just four wickets and an economy rate of 5.87. In Tuesday's match at Seddon Park, New Zealand mixed caution with aggression - two maidens being traded for 56 runs, including five sixes hit by Guptill.

De Villiers acknowledged how New Zealand have been able to combat Tahir's threat, but expected the surface at Eden Park to be more to his liking.

"They respect him a bit more, are playing him better, and that sometimes happens if you have a match-winner in your team," he said. "We also look after one or two of their bowlers and are confident we dominate the rest. They have a similar game plan against Immi; they really looked after him well tonight (on Wednesday). They took him on at the right time.

"Eden Park's wicket is a bit quicker; Immi likes to bowl on quicker wickets. Tonight's was pretty slow, so even if you didn't pick him, you could play him. Most spinners like a pitch that turns quickly."

Respect was the word used by Mike Hesson as well when asked about quelling the threat of Tahir. After the T20 thrashing, he had said it was important New Zealand played Tahir on "their terms" rather than being forced to chase the game against him. Instead, Hesson believed they have made Tahir strain for success.

"We've respected him as a threat, also bearing in mind if we deny him wickets he does go searching a little bit and create scoring opportunities."