There is no great history as such to South Africa-New Zealand battles. Nothing when we compare India-Australia, Australia-South Africa and, in recent times, India-South Africa. However, this is the World Cup quarter final and both teams would be vying for a spot in the desired last four and, who knows, a tough contest and we might just see the beginning of another tough, long-drawn battle. On paper and talent wise as well the Proteas are much much superior to the Kiwis. However, even with Stephen Fleming gone and brigade of trustworthy men like Nathan Astle, Chris Harris and Cairns, the New Zealanders cannot be taken lightly. After all to fight with the limited ability at their disposal is in their genes. Even so South Africa would begin favourites. Presenting the SWOT analysis of New Zealand vs South Africa.
Strengths: South Africa’s biggest strength is undoubtedly the fact that they have in their midst the best fast bowler in world cricket. Dale Steyn is a sensational bowler and even if he has a half good day he can blow the opposition away. The game against India was a perfect illustration. He was taken apart by Sachin and Sehwag in his initial spell, but came back to destroy the remainder of the Indian batting line up and turned the game on its heels. The Kiwi batsman would have to be wary of him else he could do the same to them. Steyn’s presence also gives this South African side a definite edge over the previous ones, who were also tipped as favourites, but failed on each and every occasion.
The good thing for Steyn is that he has found great support and an able ally in Morne Morkel. Also quick in pace, Morkel has cemented his place in the side over the last year with some excellent spells of fast bowling and has only augmented his reputation with some impressive performances in cricket’s premier tournament. The Steyn-Morkel combination, if on fire, can be too much to handle for the Kiwis.
The surprise element in this tournament as far as South Africa are concerned has been the impressive performance of left-arm pinner Robin Peterson. The latter has been part of the Proteas’ set up for a number of years now, but has never been more than a bits and pieces player. However, this World Cup has changed that all. On pitches supportive to his kind of bowling, he has found success both while opening the innings as well as in the middle overs. What’s more, he is even contributing with the bat at key moments. Add to it, they have former skipper Johan Botha as well who has also done his bit whenever given the opportunity, which makes South Africa a completely dominant outfit.
There’s much to be happy about in the batting department as well. Hashim Amla, Jacques Kallis and AB de Villiers have all been among the runs and looked fluid at that. Their fielding has always been a strong point, yet it deserves a mention.
Weaknesses: One of the major worries for the South Africans is the form of their skipper Graeme Smith. He has looked totally scratch even as the other around him have gone around scoring merrily. Someday or the other the in-form batsmen are bound to have a bad day, like the one against England and if Smith doesn’t rise up to the occasion then they could be in deep trouble. Also, they have a tendency to struggle against slow bowling and if New Zealand can find a way out here, they could have an opening into the game.
Opposition: It is a given that the Kiwis are less talent of the two sides. However, they are still capable of making up somewhat given their battle-hardened nature. The Proteas thus shouldn’t be overaggressive or the move could backfire.
Threats: Although South Africa managed to chase down India’s big total, they haven’t been completely ridden of the chokers’ tag. It is something that mentally may still weigh heavily on them. And this is one aspect where South Africa can be put under pressure if the Kiwis are good enough to do so.
Strengths: Having limited ability, the positives of this New Zealand side are also bounded. Still, they can be used to deadly effect as was evident against Pakistan. Think of the game against Pakistan and Ross Taylor’s destruction immediately comes to mind. The immensely talented stroke maker could put all the Proteas’ plans to nought if he comes of. Further, in Brendon McCullum and Martin Guptill they have two men who have hit form at the right time. Of course, most of their big knocks have come against lesser sides, but that is no discredit to them. Also , there is no doubting their ability as well. The Kiwis don’t lack in all-round talent too. In Jacob Oram and Scott Styris they have two class batsmen who can also do a reasonable job with the ball.
It doesn’t even need to be mentioned that, If fit, Daniel Vettori could be the trump card for the Kiwis considering the conditions, which should suit his style of bowling. Finally, there are two aspects that give the New Zealanders a slight edge if one can say so. The Kiwis haven’t lost to South Africa in the World Cup since 1999 and, as Hamish Bennett’s replacement in the event pointed out, they have made it to the World Cup semis on as many as five occasions.
Weaknesses: The Kiwis are mentally strong no doubt, but at times outrageous talent can outshine mental aptitude. This explains why the Kiwis have never made it past the semis. In 1992, Inzamam-ul-Haq blasted them out when it seemed they would easily make it to the summit clash. In 1999, too Pakistan were too good for them. And so, it could all depend on how badly South Africa want to win and amount of ruthlessness in their game.
Opposition: South Africa just look much more superior and well-balanced on paper. And if they perform to potential, the Kiwis won’t be able to do much despite their best efforts.
Threats: New Zealand haven’t been having a good time of late on the subcontinent. They were blanked by both Bangladesh and India. If a few things go wrong, the haunting memories could be back as well.
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