Will number 13 prove lucky for South Africa? That may depend if they keep on winning. The figure will mark their new record winning streak in one-day internationals if they overcome New Zealand in Christchurch.

There have been some impressive displays among those 12 victories. Six times batting first they have posted over 300, and four times over 350; in another they chased down 372; and in eight of the matches they have bowled out the opposition.

However, regardless of their current form, they still see improvements to be made. The victory in Hamilton became a nail-biter, as AB de Villiers and Andile Phehlukwayo guided them home with a ball to spare, and was one of their hardest earned of the unbeaten run.

"We haven't played the perfect game yet," said batting coach Neil McKenzie.

"Twelve in row has shown what we have been doing over last year has really worked. The big thing is we've got try get to play that perfect game and hopefully that comes in a semi or final. But the blueprint has got to be honed in every game you play."

A semi-final or a final. South Africa crave that global piece of silverware. The perfect game in a semi-final, never mind a final, is something they have been unable to do in 10 of the 11 multi-team tournament semis they have reached. The one success came against Sri Lanka in the 1998 Wills International Cup, the precursor to what is now the Champions Trophy.

All the culture camps, all the team spirit, all the victories - no one will really know if it will make a difference until that chance comes up again.

De Villiers rated the Hamilton victory was "10 out of 10" for the experience of winning a tight game, but "zero" when it came to conditions, given the pitches in the Champions Trophy are unlikely to turn anywhere near as much.

With the Napier match having been shifted to Seddon Park because of the former's poor drainage, there could yet be another spinning pitch in the offing so the remaining three matches - beginning with Christchurch on Wednesday - perhaps offer the best chance of something closer to English conditions.

"All one-day sides gauge themselves on periods where you lead up to a Champions Trophy or pinnacle series," McKenzie said. "It bodes well for us going to England where we're going find the same sort of conditions generally."

Although South Africa will not entertain the notion, it would be a useful exercise for them if this series conjured up a deciding match in Auckland early next month. It would still only be for a bilateral victory, but it would at least give them the taste of a winner-takes-all match.

Andrew McGlashan is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo