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Ken Borland

Swiss outing for team spirit – Kirsten

Posted on July 04, 2012 by Ken

South Africa coach Gary Kirsten said on Monday that the decision to visit Switzerland for a team-building exercise before their tour of England was because spirit could prove the difference between the two squads in the Test series between the number one and two ranked sides.

The South Africans left Johannesburg on Monday night and headed for Switzerland, where they will spend four days with explorer and compatriot Mike Horn at his outdoor survival camp.

They will then arrive in England on Friday, playing warm-up matches against Somerset (July 9-10) and Kent (July 13-15) before the first Test starts at the Oval on July 19.

“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 told a news conference at Johannesburg International Airport on Monday.

“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.

South Africa captain Graeme Smith will play his 100th Test at the Oval and will also want to continue his fine form in England, where he has scored 1083 runs in nine tests at an average of 72.20.

But Smith said beating England in the series and reclaiming the number one spot for South Africa on the International Cricket Council rankings were his prime motivations.

“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 number one ranking, but we’re up against a very good England team,” Smith said.

Smith added that even though most attention had focused on the two teams’ bowlers, the batsmen also had a key role to play.

“I 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 also needs to perform with skill and pace.

“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,” Smith said.

“We want to become the best in the world, that’s a peg we’ve put in 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.

Smith said the sense of anticipation for the tour could be felt in South Africa and had rubbed off on the team.

“Just the buzz around shows how much the tour means, we feel how much the tour means to the fans. It’s between the two top teams and the England side have proven themselves over the last couple of years to be very methodical and well-drilled. They won a big series in Australia and we expect them to be well-prepared and battle-hardened.

“We respect them a lot and the cricket will be hard, no one will give an inch,” Smith said.

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