New Zealand seek to continue improvement as they take on Proteas in T20s
Despite missing several key players, New Zealand are confident they can continue their growth as a team when they take on South Africa in two Twenty20 internationals and three one-day internationals this month.
The first T20 is at Kingsmead in Durban Friday and New Zealand go into the match fresh from a crushing 80-run win over Zimbabwe in a one-off match in Harare last Sunday.
The Black Caps also won a one-day series in Zimbabwe, recovering from a surprise seven-wicket defeat in the first match to win the next two convincingly.
New Zealand have come a long way since their previous visit to South Africa in 2012-13 when they were thrashed in two Test matches before coming back strongly to win a one-day series.
Coach Mike Hesson says that tour was the start of a New Zealand renaissance.
"We hadn`t won a series in SA and we were under-strength, so to win that was a big achievement for us.
"That was the start of a pretty big two years, culminating in a World Cup final and the Test team moving up the rankings steadily."
Hesson started the 2012-13 tour with major question marks over his role as coach after Ross Taylor was controversially deposed as captain.
But New Zealand have soared since the appointment of Brendon McCullum as skipper.
They have won four and drawn three of their last seven Test series, while the one-day side played thrilling cricket to reach the World Cup final against fellow co-hosts Australia this year.
"A true test of a side is how well they go away from home," said Hesson. "We have started to win series away from home on a relatively consistent basis and that`s a sign that we are making progress."
New Zealand beat South Africa by four wickets with one ball to spare in the World Cup semi-finals, but hopes of a meaningful rematch have effectively been dashed in terms of playing personnel.
McCullum has been rested for the tour together with fast bowler Tim Southee. Injuries have ruled out Taylor, all-rounder Corey Anderson and Trent Boult, who formed a highly effective fast bowling combination with Southee.
South Africa will be missing batsman JP Duminy and fast bowler Morne Morkel, who are on paternity leave. Morkel will be available for the T20 games but Duminy will miss all the matches.
South Africa will seek to atone for a disappointing tour of Bangladesh, where they were beaten in a one-day series and had to settle for rain-hit draws in the two Tests.
While Duminy and Morkel will be away for the birth of their first children, star batsman AB de Villiers is back after missing the one-day and Test matches in Bangladesh on paternity leave.
David Wiese, who has previously played in T20 internationals, is likely to win a first one-day cap as South Africa seek to rectify the lack of a genuine all-rounder, which was one of their weaknesses at the World Cup.