WELLINGTON, Feb 13 (Reuters) - South Africa have arrived in New Zealand full of confidence after replacing Australia at the top of the one-day cricket rankings but the Proteas will have mixed feelings about their return to Eden Park this week.
The three-test tour kicks off with a Twenty20 international on Friday at the Auckland venue where South Africa lost the 2015 World Cup semi-final to the hosts when Grant Elliott smashed a six off paceman Dale Steyn on the second-last ball.
South Africa had been fancied to shed their reputation as World Cup ‘chokers’ and reach a maiden final in the global showpiece and the defeat left several players in tears.
It was later described by as shattered captain AB De Villiers’ “greatest disappointment”.
Test and T20 captain Faf du Plessis, who top-scored for his team in the semi-final with 82, said on Monday he still carried scars from the match.
“It was a great game, but it’ll be mixed feelings getting back there,” Du Plessis told local media in Auckland.
”Honestly, something like that you always carry it with you. As a team, we’ve definitely put it behind us, but the emotions of the day will always be with us.
“That’s not a bad thing. Although we were on the wrong side of winning the game, it was a great game of cricket and something that will always be with us.”
After the one-off T20 match, the teams play five ODI’s before the opening match of the test series in Dunedin next month.
The Proteas will look to stretch their golden summer into autumn, having swept both Australia and Sri Lanka 5-0 in one-day series at home.
South Africa also beat Steve Smith’s Australia 2-1 away in their test series and returned home to sweep the Sri Lankans 3-0 but face a New Zealand team unbeaten at home this summer across all formats.
Du Plessis said the tour would be good preparation for the ICC Champions Trophy in England and Wales in June, a tournament the Proteas have underperformed in since winning the inaugural edition in 1998.
“We are putting a huge amount of emphasis on one-day cricket,” added the 32-year-old.
”We haven’t performed the way we’d like in ICC tournaments.
”The buildup we have is looking good.
“New Zealand have a great energy in their team and they are very competitive, especially in the fielding department, so you always feel their presence.”
Reporting by Ian Ransom in Melbourne; Editing by Peter Rutherford