February 15, 2012 by
South Africa coach Gary Kirsten said that his team’s tour of New Zealand was an important warm-up for their England trip later this year and that it was the Proteas’ responsibility to perform well away from home.
The South Africa team left Johannesburg for New Zealand on Friday, and will play three T20 internationals, three ODIs and three tests between February 17 and March 27.
“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 told a news conference at Johannesburg International Airport on Friday.
“We’ve set long-term goals and this series is part of that. It’s important for our tour to England because it’s going to be a very competitive series. New Zealand aren’t easy to beat at home and we need to stack up performances, to play well consistently, that’s our focus.
“It will then be more of the same for the England tour. This New Zealand tour is not a standalone event. Developing consistency is not suddenly just going to come right, it’s a process that takes time,” Kirsten said.
AB de Villiers will be leading the team in the limited-overs matches and he said his first tour as skipper would be an ideal opportunity to move forward in his captaincy, after steering South Africa to a hard-fought 3-2 series win over Sri Lanka at home last month.
“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 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,” De Villiers said.
Kirsten said it was important the team got into their stride as quickly as possible 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 they’ll have five good days of 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.
The World Cup-winning India coach said New Zealand’s greatest strength was their ability to think on their feet.
“They are streetsmart and understand their conditions well,” Kirsten said.
South Africa’s T20 squad includes three new faces in fast bowler Marchant de Lange, uncapped explosive opening batsman Richard Levi and experienced middle-order batsman Justin Ontong.
De Lange took seven for 81 in the first innings of his test debut against Sri Lanka, while Ontong has played two tests, 26 ODIs and three T20 internationals for South Africa, the last of which was three years ago.
Senior players such as Graeme Smith, Jacques Kallis and Dale Steyn have been left out of the T20 squad but will fly out to join the rest of the team before the ODIs.