Faf and Robin P talk up the Kiwis
CHEQUES should be in the post from Cricket SA's marketing department to Faf du Plessis and Robin Peterson after their earnest attempts to talk up South Africa's home series against New Zealand.
The Proteas, fresh from defending their No1 ranking in Australia, will take on the Black Caps, ranked eighth - between West Indies and bottom-feeders Bangladesh - in three Twenty20 games, two Tests and three one-day internationals between December 21 and January 25.
"We only won the Test series in New Zealand 1-0 (in March) - we didn't walk all over them," Du Plessis said with the same earnestness he brings to the batting crease. "That shows we will still have to play good cricket.
"There are one or two teams who are a little bit easier to play against, but most of them have some quality players."
Peterson employed more spin than he does on the pitch when he said: "It's more high profile playing against Australia, but New Zealand beat Sri Lanka [in the second Test to level the series] in Sri Lanka recently - they're no mugs.
"They're not going to lie down and let us walk all over them. It's still going to be tough and we're still going to have to put in the hard work."
The Black Caps are scheduled to arrive in South Africa this week under a new captain, Brendon McCullum, after Ross Taylor walked out in a huff over a plan to relieve him of the reins in the shorter formats. Daniel Vettori won't make the trip because of a hernia and an Achilles problem.
Between them, Taylor and Vettori have 155 Test caps - almost half the 324 that the entire squad's experience adds up to without them.
McCullum and Chris Martin, who have played 70 Tests each, account for more than 45% of that experience.
Vettori is second only to Richard Hadlee among New Zealand's all-time wicket-takers, and Vettori and Taylor have contributed 7784 runs to the cause.
New Zealand, where quality cricketers are thin on the ground, can ill afford not to put their best players on the field. Vettori and Taylor are among their finest.
The fact that the Kiwis were able to beat Sri Lanka by 167 runs in Colombo last month despite Vettori's injury-enforced absence, is cancelled out by the fact that Taylor scored 142 in their first innings.
But the South Africans won't waste time thinking about the standard of the opposition.
"If you take your foot off the gas, you are not justifying your No1 ranking," Du Plessis said.
"If you look at how the Aussies played when they were No1, they were unbelievable, they just kept drilling teams.
"If we want to be like them and stay on top, we have to make sure that we play to our potential - whoever we play against."