Cricket: South Africa arrive N. Zealand with stronger mentality
South Africa arrived in New Zealand today trumpeting new players, new goals and, most importantly, a new mindset ahead of their six week tour.
There is no doubt the Proteas will present a significantly stronger proposition on the park than the over-matched Zimbabweans they’re replacing, but one aspect of their game has, in the past, been called into question.
South Africa are often given the caustic label of world cricket’s great chokers, a tag which was only reinforced the last time these two teams met in the World Cup quarter-finals. And, in tours past, the Black Caps have enjoyed a psychological edge over the tourists, with Stephen Fleming spending the summer of 2004 firmly inside counterpart Graeme Smith’s head.
But new South Africa captain AB de Villiers called this is a brand new Proteas outfit, free from any existing mental scars.
“We’re a new unit with fresh faces,” he said. “We play a different kind of cricket than we have in the last few years. But, mentally, we will have to be tested in the future to see how strong we are. I believe we are very strong but we’ll have to wait and see.”
De Villiers said if the Black Caps think their opponents are still mentally weak then “good for them”, and he was adamant his side would be up for the challenge if New Zealand aim to talk their way to wins.
“There always is something, a little bit of this and that, when we play against New Zealand, especially the last time we met in the World Cup – a few things went down there. But, at the end of the day, they won that game.”
That World Cup cap defeat still smarts for the South Africans. Chasing a very attainable 221 to progress to the semifinals, South Africa lost their last five wickets for 25 runs to fall well short. Making it more painful for the Proteas, Dan Vettori and Kyle Mills dished out a verbal spraying after de Villiers was run out to spark the collapse, an incident which saw the two Kiwis censured and fined by the ICC.
But de Villiers denied that unsavoury episode would add fuel to the fire in this potentially combustible match-up between two great sporting rivals.
“Not at all, it’s past tense now, I think we’ve moved on from that. Obviously it hurt, it’s not nice to fall out of the World Cup, but we have new things to work towards and a lot to look forward to.
“I’m sure the games will be played very hard on the field but we’re friends with most of the guys off the field, so nothing too serious. We’ll definitely go out there to try and win the games.”
Coach Gary Kirsten welcomed any verbal warfare his side may face but said South Africa would likely leave that to the opposition.
“If New Zealand want to get verbal with us then that’s their business. The side that plays better cricket is going to win, bottom line.
“To be honest, I don’t think we’re going to think too much about what New Zealand are doing. We just feel that if we play really good cricket in terms of our skills and don’t say anything, we’re going to win more games than we’re going to lose.”
A noble approach but it remains to be seen if it will be adhered to if the Black Caps start chirping.
New Zealand certainly know South Africa have been susceptible to such tactics in the past. And they also know, unlike when facing Zimbabwe, they’ll need any edge they can get.