The fierce rugby union rivalry between the All Blacks and the Springboks is well-known, with the two sides having fought many an epic battle over the years.
New Zealand’s all-conquering side have always considered South Africa as their toughest competitors, and it remains the most captivating game in the rugby calendar.
In a few hours’ time, New Zealand and South Africa will go head to head at Auckland’s Eden Park in arguably the most awaited fixture of the year so far. Sounds like another rugger dogfight? No, that can wait for October, when the two nations are expected to meet at some stage of the Rugby World Cup in England.
For now, it is the first semifinal of the Cricket World Cup that we are talking about. The stakes could not have been higher for the Black Caps and the Proteas – two teams desperate to lay their hands on the trophy.
Both teams will be gunning to enter a World Cup final for the first time. New Zealand have been unbeatable in the tournament, and there will be expectations from their home crowd to exorcise the demons of the 1992 semifinal defeat to Pakistan at the same venue.
On the other hand, South Africa know that yet another failure to reach the summit clash will only add to their misery of being perennial tournament underachievers.
The Kiwis hold a slight historical edge, having won four – including the last three – out of six World Cup matches against South Africa, but that will count for nothing when the knockout commences at New Zealand’s sporting mecca.
As the mouthwatering clash beckons, let us look back at the previous instances of World Cup matches between New Zealand and South Africa:-
League Stage, Auckland, 1992
The two teams have indeed met in a World Cup game at Eden Park before. The year was 1992, a watershed year for cricket’s premier limited-overs event what with the introduction of coloured clothing and floodlights. Adding to the freshness was South Africa’s maiden World Cup appearance after having missed the first four editions due to the Apartheid ban.
Coming into this Leap Year Day match, South Africa had served a message by upstaging Australia in their opening encounter while New Zealand had quickly established themselves as one of the front-runners with wins over Australia and Sri Lanka. South African captain Kepler Wessels won the toss and opted to bat on a slow surface.
Off-spinner Dipak Patel and Willie Watson made run-scoring difficult the batsmen soon gave in. Watson removed Wessels while Patel accounted for Andrew Hudson. Hansie Cronje followed soon after, and the Proteas were tottering at 29/3. It was left to Peter Kirsten to rescue the innings – he waged a lone battle, scoring 90 off 129 balls from number three as South Africa ended at a modest 190/7.
New Zealand openers Mark Greatbatch and Tom Latham (60) snuffed out any hopes that South Africa might have had. They put on 114, of which 103 were clouted in the first 15 overs itself, before Greatbatch, later named man of the match, fell for a 60-ball 68 to Kirsten’s part-time off-spin. The rest of the chase was akin to a stroll in the park as New Zealand reached 191/3 with a good 15.3 overs left.
Group Stage, Faisalabad, 1996
Hansie Cronje’s South Africans were regarded as one of the contenders to win the 1996 World Cup, and a facile five-wicket win in this match proved that they meant business. New Zealand batted first after their wicketkeeper-captain Lee Germon called correctly, but the toss was perhaps about the only thing they got right.
A top-class bowling and fielding effort enabled South Africa to restrict New Zealand to just 177/9. From the moment Nathan Astle got run out in the second over, New Zealand were on the back-foot.
The score subsided to 36/3 and despite Stephen Fleming (who top-scored with 33) attempting a fightback, the batting failed to get going. A few blows from the lower order rescued the innings from 116/7. Allan Donald bowled a quality spell, collecting 3/34.
In reply, Gary Kirsten and Steve Palframan put on 41 for the first wicket before Cronje smashed 78 off only 64 balls from number three. He fell to Astle, but by that time his side required only 32 more to win. The victory was duly achieved in 37.3 overs as New Zealand were left to rue fielding lapses. Cronje was named the man of the match.
Super Six, Edgbaston, 1999
South Africa thoroughly dominated this Super Six match, as a result sealing their place in the semifinals. After Hansie Cronje decided to bat, openers Gary Kirsten (82 from 121 balls) and Herschelle Gibbs (91 from 118) flattened the Kiwi bowling attack with a 176-run partnership.
Jacques Kallis (53* from 36 balls) and Cronje (39 from 22) ensured that the innings finished on a high note as South Africa rattled up 287/5. Kallis then starred with the ball too as he removed both the openers with just 34 runs on the board to dent the chase early on, and was later named man of the match for his all-round effort.
New Zealand’s batsmen did not present any semblance of a challenge as the final total limped to 213/8 with captain Stephen Fleming top-scoring with 42. Besides Kallis, Lance Klusener and Cronje too took two wickets each as South Africa turned in a near-perfect display to make their second World Cup semifinal.
Group Stage, Johannesburg, 2003
New Zealand captain Stephen Fleming broke the hearts of the Wanderers faithful with a sublime career-best innings in what was regarded as a must-win match for his team. The first half of the game however belonged to Herschelle Gibbs, who stroked a wonderful century after Shaun Pollock decided to make first use of a good batting track.
Gibbs shared a 60-run stand in under ten overs with fellow opener Greame Smith before adding another 66 with pinch-hitter Nicky Boje for the second wicket. The third wicket stand with Jacques Kallis too brought in a further 67 productive runs as Gibbs flayed the New Zealand bowling much to the crowd’s delight. He was dislodged in the 46th over after making 143 from 141 balls with 19 fours and three sixes.
Lance Klusener’s meaty blows at the death guided South Africa to an imposing 306/6. But on the good pitch, Fleming replied with confidence and purpose. He controlled an 89-run opening stand with Craig McMillan to set the foundation. The latter’s dismissal brought Nathan Astle (54*) to the middle, and New Zealand thereafter went into cruise control mode to silence the home crowd.
Wicketkeeper Mark Boucher muffed the simplest of chances when Fleming was on 53, which proved to be costly. With the score at 182/1 in the 31st over, rain intervened to make things worse for the hosts. The D/L target was revised to 226 in 39 overs.
Fleming, who ended with a career-best 134* from 132 balls with 21 fours, scored the winning boundary as New Zealand reached 229/1 with 13 balls to spare. Needless to say, he was named man of the match.
Super Eight, St. George’s, 2007
New Zealand secured a hard-fought five-wicket win in a gripping, low-scoring Super Eight encounter. With this win, the Black Caps confirmed their semifinal spot. Stephen Fleming, in his third World Cup as captain, put South Africa in to bat on a pitch where stroke-making was a challenging task.
South Africa suffered a woeful start, with both the openers, captain Graeme Smith and A.B de Villiers, back in the hut as the score read 3/2 in three overs, which improved to 52/3 in 20. Herschelle Gibbs, batting at number four, curbed his attacking instincts to score a patient 60. He combined with Ashwell Prince for a 74-run stand for the fourth wicket to steady the ship.
Craig McMillan (3/23) made vital inroads in the middle overs to keep the innings in check. The run rate never went above four as the South Africans finished with 193/7. The small but tricky total needed to be chased with sensible batting, and New Zealand did exactly that.
Fleming led from the front with a solid 50 while opening the innings. He shared a 78-run third-wicket alliance with Scott Styris, who scored an equally effective 56. Despite the best efforts of the South African bowlers, New Zealand secured a five-wicket win when Brendon McCullum hit the winning four with ten balls left. McMillan, who scored 38* to go with his three wickets, was named man of the match.
Quarterfinal, Dhaka, 2011
South Africa, one of the pre-tournament favourites, were knocked out of the World Cup by an inconsistent New Zealand in a high-intensity clash at the Shere Bangla National Stadium. Yet another promising tournament had ended with a ‘choke’ for the Proteas.
The opening pace-spin combo of Dale Steyn and Robin Peterson reduced New Zealand to 16/2 by the sixth over after Daniel Vettori elected to bat. The Black Caps found their saviours in Jesse Ryder and Ross Taylor, who put on a measured 114 runs for the third wicket. But Taylor’s dismissal to Imran Tahir in the 33rd over brought about a flurry of wickets as the innings lost steam.
Tahir got rid off Ryder too, after the batsman had scored 83 from 121 balls. Controlled death bowling from the Proteas ensured that New Zealand were restricted to 221/8, with Morne Morkel taking 3/46. In reply, off-spinner Nathan McCullum removed Hashim Amla early, but skipper Graeme Smith and Jacques Kallis (47) put on 61 for the second wicket.
Kallis’ dismissal – caught in the deep off Tim Southee – turned around the game. The score even then was a comfortable 108/3 in the 25th over, but panic began to set in. McCullum (3/24) turned the screws by castling J.P Duminy.
Soon after, the dangerous A.B de Villiers was run out for 35. With South Africa now at 121/5, New Zealand went for the kill. Man of the match Oram (4/39) hastened the collapse as South Africa were bundled out for 172 in 43.2 overs and yet again left to ponder what might have been.
Watch Stephen Fleming’s match-winning 134* – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S5S9xZuphlc