After a tough three-match Twenty20 series, which ended with New Zealand imploding astoundingly to lose 2-1, the teams face off for the first of three one-day internationals at Wellington's Westpac Stadium.
The last one-day match these teams contested was the dramatic 2011 World Cup quarter-final in which New Zealand stunned South Africa to win by 49 runs. If the intensity with which the two teams contested the preceding Twenty20 matches is any indicator, then fans on both sides are in store for a riveting series.
On Wednesday in Auckland, it was New Zealand's turn to choke chasing a target of 166 to win. The hosts were coasting towards their target of 166, needing 17 off the last four overs, but lost by three runs and conceded the series 2-1 to South Africa.
South Africa's captain, AB de Villiers, was confident his team had snatched the momentum from the home team after seemingly being out of the third Twenty20. "We're still away from home and New Zealand are a very good one-day unit. We're ranked higher than them so we should be winning. But it's going to be a tough series and they'll be hurting and coming back fighting," he said.
South Africa will be bolstered by the return of Graeme Smith and Jacques Kallis in the top order and Dale Steyn as the new-ball spearhead. Kallis has enjoyed playing New Zealand, with 1432 runs at 42.11 and 34 wickets against this opposition. Smith has not been as successful, averaging 32.26 without a century, but relieved of the ODI captaincy he has a chance to better those figures. Steyn's return will add much depth to a strong pace attack that already includes Morne Morkel, Lonwabo Tsotsobe and young Marchant de Lange, who bowled a superb final over on Wednesday. It is likely that Johan Botha will hold his place as the lead spinner ahead of Robin Peterson.
New Zealand's strength lies in their batting. An in-form Martin Guptill, Rob Nicol, Brendon McCullum, Kane Williamson and Jesse Ryder – set to play his first ODI since October – will be counted on to score the majority of the runs. New Zealand will assess allrounder James Franklin on the morning of the match. Franklin, who performed well in the Twenty20s, is in doubt after sustaining a dislocated finger at training. Should he miss out, Tom Latham will fill in. With the ball, Kyle Mills should return to lead the attack in front of Tim Southee and Doug Bracewell. Nathan McCullum will play the primary spinner's role, though New Zealand could draft in Tarun Nethula ahead of pace bowler Andy McKay.
Brendon McCullum, the New Zealand captain, sought to move on from the three-run loss on Wednesday which he said owed to "five overs of madness".
"There's definitely belief that we can beat them. We know on paper they're a very good team with some experience and proven world-class players. But we are playing in our conditions, we've got what we think is a pretty exciting unit as well," McCullum said. "Our bowlers are going very well and our batters have done pretty well all summer. We know in the field we're as good as anyone around the world. If we can get our performances together on the day then we're going to put South Africa under pressure and in our conditions with our home crowd behind us we're confident we can get the job done."
Head-to-head, these two teams have played each other 52 times with South Africa coming up victors 30 times to New Zealand's 18. Of the five bilateral series they have contested since 1999, South Africa have taken four.
New Zealand: 1 Martin Guptill, 2 Rob Nicol, 3 Brendon McCullum (capt/wk), 4 Kane Williamson, 5 Jesse Ryder, 6 James Franklin/Tom Latham 7 Nathan McCullum, 8 Doug Bracewell, 9 Tim Southee, 10 Tarun Nethula/Andy McKay, 11 Kyle Mills.
South Africa: 1 Hashim Amla, 2 Graeme Smith, 3 Jacques Kallis 4 AB de Villiers (capt/wk), 5 JP Duminy, 6 Faf du Plessis, 7 Albie Morkel, 8 Robin Peterson/Johan Botha 9 Dale Steyn 10 Morne Morkel 11 Lonwabo Tsotsobe.