Captain AB de Villiers remained wary of a New Zealand team five positions inferior in the International Cricket Council’s ODI rankings, as South Africa prepared for a testing three-match series in Mount Maunganui and Hamilton later this month.
The second-placed Proteas are brimming with confidence on the back of convincing twin victories over Australia in September’s Tri-Series, which also featured Zimbabwe, at the Harare Sports Club. They will face the Aussies for five more ODIs – and three T20Is – after the brief stint in New Zealand.
The seventh-placed Black Caps, meanwhile, have proven relatively successful across ODI cricket – against the West Indies and India. Head coach Mike Hesson’s contract has been renewed and veteran all-rounder and former captain Daniel Vettori is on the brink of returning from a lengthy period on the sidelines due to injury.
‘I don’t think the New Zealanders are a bits and pieces cricket team anymore. They are definitely too competitive and too good a team too be labelled as that, even though a lot of people have done so in the past,’ said De Villiers.
‘We know the kind of threats they bring to the party and we are well aware of most of them, so hopefully win that series there and get some good confidence behind us. I have no doubt we have the skill, the talent in this team to beat any side.’
Australia, who leapfrogged the South Africans to top spot in the ICC ODI rankings on Monday, whitewashed Pakistan three-nil in the United Arab Emirates last week. While the absence of the injured Michael Clarke and Mitchell Marsh has hampered their batting firepower, the superb form of fast bowlers Mitchell Johnson and Kane Richardson bodes well for the battle against the Proteas.
‘I think the Aussies are very hungry, especially against us after we’ve beaten them now in Zimbabwe. I think they’ll want to give us a little bit of payback and I think that will be a great challenge first of all,’ added De Villiers.
‘We’re a little bit inexperienced when it comes to touring over there with big crowds, they get quite involved. We can definitely win the series. We showed that now against them, I believe we got a bit of an edge over them.’