CAPE TOWN — If South Africa have any regard for history they will know that the one-day international series of their fast-approaching tour of New Zealand presents an opportunity to bury a painful memory.
AB de Villiers’s side will have a T20 game against Canterbury on February 15 and then three T20 internationals to sharpen their general limited-overs game after a “feet-up” period following the Sri Lankan visit to our shores, but then have a special reason to hit the ground running in the ODI series.
That is because the equivalent series on their last visit to New Zealand, in 2003/04, amounted to one of their most traumatic periods ever in the format.
There was little indication of the angst to follow when they roared into a 1-0 lead in the six-match series, courtesy of a five-wicket victory with two balls to spare at Auckland’s famous rugby temple of Eden Park, Boeta Dippenaar and Shaun Pollock scrambling them over the line.
But it was all downhill from there in the sometimes ill-tempered series, as the Stephen Fleming-led Black Caps won all of the next five ODIs on the trot for a surprisingly emphatic 5-1 outcome in their favour.
Fatigue was cited as a major cause for South Africa’s slide, considering that they had come off a lengthy period of virtually non-stop globetrotting activity, but the result still came as a shock to Proteas fans.
The Proteas’ captain at the time, Graeme Smith — who remains in the ODI mix despite relinquishing the leadership to De Villiers — did his best to lead from the front, with successive personal knocks of 72, 80 and 43 in the first three encounters, but even his own form faded with the team’s implosion.
The touring party this time will include just four survivors from that series — Smith, Jacques Kallis, Robin Peterson and Albie Morkel — with most of the squad having savoured the recent 3-2 home series victory over the Sri Lankans.
South Africa do boast supremacy from the last time these nations met in a bilateral ODI series, winning 2-1 on home soil in 2007/08.
The Proteas are ranked third in ODIs and the New Zealanders seventh.