The Proteas take on New Zealand in a crucial Cricket World Cup clash at the Maharashtra Cricket Association Stadium in India on Wednesday.
It’s an important match to determine second and third place in the final table face-off.
Undefeated India look set to top the overall table, having gone six from six so far. South Africa have gone five from six, with their only loss being a shock defeat to Netherlands in their third game.
Third-placed New Zealand, meanwhile, have lost only to hosts India and more recently against a resurgent Australia by five runs on Saturday.
After playing the Black Caps on Wednesday, the Proteas face India on Sunday in another tough test before closing the round-robin stage of the tournament against Afghanistan next Friday.
Afghanistan have been in exceptional form themselves, and are in with a slim chance of a semifinal berth after securing three wins in their first six matches.
Black Cap challenge
First for South Africa in their final stretch of fixtures is a Black Caps side that got off to an excellent start in the tournament, winning their opening four fixtures against England, Netherlands, Bangladesh and Afghanistan.
“They’ve gone beyond the time where people couldn’t understand why they achieved the results they have,” head coach Rob Walter said from the team hotel in Pune ahead of the Proteas’ clash.
“They’re a very good side now and you don’t see many holes in their make-up.
“They have a lot of depth in different positions and, for the most part, are highly experienced cricketers who’ve played a lot and achieved a lot.”
Walter has an in-depth knowledge of cricket in New Zealand. He coached there domestically from 2016 until March 2023, when he became Proteas head coach.
“There’s some local knowledge with their players and I’ve worked with a fair number of them and [teams I have coached have] played against the majority of them,” Walter said.
“It’s just a bunch of quality cricketers and if it were as easy as doing your scouting and prep against them, it would be an easy game. But it’s not… they’ve been playing great cricket. We’ll have to see how a bit of local knowledge stacks up.”
Young Black Caps batter Rachin Ravindra has been in sensational form in the tournament so far. The 23-year-old is the third leading run-scorer with 406 runs in six innings. Only South Africa’s Quinton de Kock and Australia’s David Warner are ahead of him.
Walter had high praise for the youngster he coached against for several years.
“I’ve played against Rachin for seven years, or maybe a little less – he’s not that old, so the last five years,” Walter reflected.
“And then took the New Zealand A-side to India last year… and Rachin was on that tour. So, yeah, I know Rachin pretty well.
“He’s a guy that works hard on his game… harder than a lot of young cricketers that I know. Loves the game, fully invested in the game. So, to be honest with you, I’m not very surprised to see the results that he’s delivered in this World Cup.”
Ravindra was originally going to play only a bit-part role in the squad, but has been an outstanding replacement for regular skipper Kane Williamson who suffered a thumb injury against Bangladesh.
Williamson is set to return for the fixture against South Africa. However, it is not likely to be at the expense of the Black Caps’ top run-scorer.
“It is exceptionally hard just to get a chance. I think that probably the strength of the New Zealand side is that it’s not easy to get a game. It’s not easy to get into a World Cup squad,” Walter said. DM
The match starts at 10.30am CAT on Wednesday.