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Ken Borland

Fresh Swiss air the tonic for Proteas

Posted on July 04, 2012 by Ken

Switzerland is renown for the quality of its health care –and what could be healthier than cavorting around the mountains in all that fresh air, singing The Sound of Music? –and Proteas coach Gary Kirsten has decided that the country will be an ideal place to check on the health of the team spirit ahead of the crunch tour of England.

The South African team left Johannesburg on Monday night for Switzerland and the outdoor survival camp of explorer and compatriot Mike Horn.

“We’re joining up with Mike Horn, a South African adventurer of note, and we’re just going to hang out with a guy we respect hugely. I hope it creates some fantastic memories for the squad and team spirit will be very important against a very good side. We like to be creative and think out of the box a bit,” Kirsten said.

The activities are still a secret, but will probably involve the mountains, rivers and glaciers of the famous skiing destination, testing the mental and physical skills of the players.

The trip has been set up by new performance director Paddy Upton, one of the most respected names in the sports psychology industry and Kirsten said the four days of totally non-cricketing activity would not affect their preparations for the first Test starting on July 19 at the Oval.

“It’s not an exact science, how much preparation you need, but we’ll have 17 days together as a team before the first Test and we just wanted to cover all our bases.

“We’ll be playing against a very high-quality team, so we really need to connect as a unit. The series might well boil down to a couple of crucial moments and we want to make sure that we are up for those,” Kirsten said at OR Tambo International Airport on Monday.

“We want to become the best in the world, that’s a peg we’ve put into the ground, but it’s not our focus. What we do every day is what’s important and we will prepare as best we can. I can promise that no stone will be left unturned come July 19,” Kirsten said.

To beat England, South Africa’s batting will have to back up the attack that has caught the imagination ahead of the series.

“I know it’s more exciting to talk about bowlers hurling the ball down at 150km/h, but the batsmen also have a crucial part to play –we must have runs on the board. I believe we have enough batsmen who have done the job under pressure, they all have good records in England and those who haven’t played tests there have played a lot of county cricket. As a whole, the top six needs to be really tight,” captain Graeme Smith said.

“I also hope our attack dominates, but both sides’ bowlers are highly skilful. Imran Tahir is an asset for us because he allows us something different – an attacking spinner – but the rest of the attack needs to come to the party as well with skill and pace,” Smith said.

The South African captain has a magnificent record in England, his 1083 runs in nine Tests coming at an average of 72.20 and he will celebrate his 100th Test in the opening match of the series at the Oval from July 19.

But Smith’s focus is squarely on the series outcome.

“I’m obviously extremely proud to have the opportunity to play 100 Tests for my country and my motivation is the same as it was on my first tour of England. But I hope we win the Test – my 100th is just a side thing – and we don’t need much more motivation than beating England in England.

“Hopefully this year we can take a step forward to the next level and hang on to the No 1 ranking, but we’re up against a very good England team,” Smith said.

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