New Zealand may be the reigning world Test champions, but the weight of history is against them as they start a two-Test series against South Africa at the Hagley Oval in Christchurch at midnight on Wednesday evening South African time.
In the 16 series played between South Africa and New Zealand since 1931/32, the Proteas have won 13 of them and three have been drawn. Even at home, the Kiwis have only managed to draw two of the eight series.
The absence of the best Black Caps batsman and regular captain Kane Williamson, as well as Trent Boult, the fourth New Zealander to take 300 Test wickets who is missing the first Test for the birth of his third child, levels the playing field even more.
But the Kiwis are the masters of playing in their own conditions, especially since South Africa’s last tour, in 2016/17, when New Zealand probably would have drawn the series 1-1 were it not for the last day of the final Test being washed out.
“I was aware that New Zealand have never beaten us in a series, but the team hasn’t spoken about it,” Rassie van der Dussen said on Tuesday.
“We know our teams have been really successful here in the past, probably because conditions favour seam bowling.
“It’s a bit different in this series though, because New Zealand are the defending Test champions and they have been really successful over the last couple of years, especially at home.
“They have played at home a lot and they really know the conditions, which are quite good for seam bowling.”
The way South Africa’s batters recently grinded their way to victory over India, however, gives them a template for success.
But their leading run-scorer, Keegan Petersen, has not been able to travel to New Zealand because of a positive Covid test, clearing the way for Sarel Erwee to make his Test debut.
Sarel Erwee plays a shot for South Africa A during a tour match against India A in Bloemfontein in December. Picture: Gallo Images
Van der Dussen said the way the left-hander had accumulated thousands of runs in domestic cricket suggested he would find a way to prosper at Test level as well.
“Sarel is a very experienced domestic cricketer and he has toured with us for the last year. He knows how to bat long and how to score big runs,” Van der Dussen said.
“For me, the step up to Test cricket was all about keeping the fundamentals the same, although there is more skill and intensity from the bowlers.
“Debut or not, he knows what his game is about and he has nothing to prove because we know what type of player Sarel is.”