“I believe we have a quality team that has enough skill and talent to confront any conditions. It’s our responsibility to do well around the world in any conditions. It is important if we want to be a champion team to win series in all formats of the game, all over the world,” Kirsten said at O.R. Tambo International Airport on Friday, just prior to the team’s departure for New Zealand.
“But New Zealand aren’t easy to beat at home, they are streetsmart and they understand their conditions, and it’s going to be a very competitive series. We need to stack up performances, to play well consistently, that’s our focus.”
Kirsten is acutely aware that, in terms of his team’s worthiness to be rated the best in the world, they have to perform consistently overseas as well and, what doesn’t come out in the wash in New Zealand is bound to come out in the rinse in England.
“We’ve set long-term goals and being number one is part of that. And this tour is also important for our tour to England. It will be more of the same over there, so this tour is not a standalone. Consistency is not just suddenly going to come right – it’s a process that takes time,” Kirsten said.
The seven-week tour is also a momentous occasion for AB de Villiers because he is captaining South Africa for the first time on tour. The 27-year-old sees the tour as an ideal opportunity for some team-spirit to grow.
“I’m very excited because it’s my first tour as captain and it means we’ll get the chance to get some team-spirit going. It’s tough doing that at home because everything’s quite disjointed. On tour, there’s nothing else for you to do but be with your team-mates.
“It was a bit of a rollercoaster against Sri Lanka and I learnt a few lessons. I enjoy being positive, but it didn’t always come off. But I thought the guys responded well to my leadership and it was a step in the right direction for me,” De Villiers said.
Kirsten added that it will be important for the team to acclimatise to the different conditions in New Zealand.
“We’re purposefully going a bit earlier than usual because the guys need a lot of time in the nets. They need time to get used to the pace and bounce, and we’ll have five full days for practice. It is different over there, even the weather – the warmest it gets is about 21 degrees. We need six or seven days to acclimatise because there’s also the jetlag to get over,” Kirsten said.
For the South Africans, there is also the small matter of revenge after New Zealand knocked them out of the World Cup in their ill-tempered last meeting.