New Zealand vs South Africa: World Cup Semi-Final Preview

Having won a World Cup knockout game for the first time in their victory over Sri Lanka, South Africa go into this even semi-final as marginal favourites with the bookmakers.

Unlike their opponents, South Africa’s tournament thus far has been anything but plain sailing. Whilst some fantastic wins against West Indies and Sri Lanka have been brilliant, wretched defeats to India and Pakistan also underlined the fact that despite including some star names such as AB de Villiers, Hashim Amla and Dale Steyn, the South African squad is not untouchable by any means.

Wicket-keeper Quinton de Kock has been out of form, and the lower middle-order of Rilee Rossouw, David Miller and JP Duminy can be destructive, but are yet to come up with the goods in a challenging situation this tournament.

However, the bowling attack of Steyn, Morne Morkel, Imran Tahir and either Vernon Philander or Kyle Abbott is extremely strong, and if de Villiers can work out his best option as to how to split the remaining ten overs between himself and Duminy, South Africa are in with a real shout.

The tag of ‘chokers’ always seems to loom over South Africa at global events, but a crushing victory against Sri Lanka dispelled any notion of being unable to get over the line; in fact, the Proteas were dominant from start to finish, and had an almost-perfect day.

With the monkey of a knockout victory of his team’s back, de Villiers knows that his side have a chance to write their names into the history books with a victory, and in the pre-match press conference, he was quick to say that his side were focusing on themselves, rather than their opponents, New Zealand.

It would be silly to focus too much on the cricket they’ve played. They’ve played really well but if we play to our full potential, no one is going to stop us. I need to make sure they are confident mentally and fresh physically.

– AB de Villiers

The South African skipper is not wrong in suggesting that New Zealand have played well. A remarkable run of nine consecutive ODI victories has seen the Kiwis top their group, which included Australia and Sri Lanka, and cruise past West Indies in their quarter-final, thanks to a fantastic knock of 237* from the much-maligned opener Martin Guptill.

However, Guptill’s record against South Africa is cataclysmic; an average of 11.5 in eleven ODI innings does not give off the suggestion of him being a dominant opening batsman, and support will be needed from fellow top-order players Brendon McCullum and Kane Williamson if New Zealand are to reach a first final.

The two sides have a bit of history when it comes to tussles in knockout games at World Cups. In 2011, Faf du Plessis, Kyle Mills and Daniel Vettori were all fined after a war of words following de Villiers’ dismissal, in a game in which South Africa collapsed from 121/3 to 172 all out chasing just 222 to win.

The middle-order have had a mixed time for New Zealand this World Cup. Corey Anderson, Grant Elliott, Ross Taylor and Luke Ronchi have just 532 in 24 innings between them, and in the event of Morne Morkel and Dale Steyn taking early wickets, they will all need to up their games.

The opening bowling partnership between Tim Southee and Trent Boult has been one of the unlikely success stories of the World Cup, with the pair having taken fifteen and nineteen wickets respectively. Wiley left-armer spinner Dan Vettori has also chipped in with fifteen, and Anderson with eleven, but Adam Milne, who has five scalps, will be unavailable for the semi-final due to a heel injury.

As a result, one of Kyle Mills, Mitchell McClenaghan and Matt Henry is likely to come in, and after McClenaghan’s poor performance against Bangladesh, it looks as though Henry is the most likely to fill the vacancy.

Boult is just two wickets away from equalling Geoff Allott’s New Zealand record 21 scalps at a World Cup set in 1999, and despite having only played 23 ODIs in his career, the left-armer’s impact at the tournament has most definitely been felt.

Skipper McCullum has been full of positivity in the build-up to the game, stating that he has told his players to focus on playing the same aggressive brand of cricket that has served them so well thus far.

I said to them [my players] that we talk a lot about this being the greatest time of our lives and the trip that we’ve been on so far has been one that we’ll all remember. The game is meant to be fun. Go out there, express yourself, enjoy the occasion, put our best foot forward, and we’ll see where the cards fall after that.

– Brendon McCullum

It is also worth mentioning that regardless of the result, this will be the final game of the tournament to be hosted in New Zealand. The country has very much taken to playing the role of hosts, and has been a credit to the game in the number of cheap tickets given out, which has attracted sizeable, passionate crowds to the vast majority of games.

Probable XIs:

South Africa: Hashim Amla, Quinton de Kock (wk), Faf du Plessis, AB de Villiers (c), David Miller, Rilee Rossouw, JP Duminy, Kyle Abbott, Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel, Imran Tahir

New Zealand: Brendon McCullum (c), Martin Guptill, Kane Williamson, Ross Taylor, Grant Elliott, Corey Anderson, Luke Ronchi (wk), Daniel Vettori, Tim Southee, Trent Boult, Matt Henry.