Johannesburg: New Zealand will be playing for survival when it takes on South Africa in its World Cup Group 'B' match at the Wanderers on Sunday. Defeat would almost certainly mean elimination for the Kiwis, who have already lost against Sri Lanka, unless they change their minds about playing a match against Kenya in Nairobi on February 21. It's a crucial game, too, for South Africa, which also has lost a match, against the West Indies.
A win would keep alive the host's hopes of finishing top of the pool, following the West Indies' defeat against New Zealand on Thursday, while defeat would mean it would have to beat Sri Lanka in Durban on March 3 to make sure of qualifying for the Super Six stage. There is a third possibility - that rain could prevent a result. There is a 40 per cent chance of thundershowers on Sunday. New Zealand captain Stephen Fleming said after the West Indies match that it had been a relief to achieve the first victory in 14 matches in South Africa, going back to the 1994-95 season. He said the players had felt a lot of pressure. "Anxiety levels were high," he said.
Fleming said that although his team lost five matches out of six against South Africa in a triangular series in Australia last season, following a 5-0 series loss in South Africa in 2000-01, it was confident of putting up a good performance. "We've got a lot of information on South Africa, but it's going to come down to competing for long periods of time," he said. South Africa's preparations were disrupted by an injury to star fielder and middle order batsman Jonty Rhodes who is now out of the tournament.
There is also concern over the form of veteran fast bowler Allan Donald, who with Rhodes was the only man to have played in all of South Africa's four World Cup campaigns. Donald is likely to be recalled on Sunday after being dropped for Wednesday's match against Kenya in Potchefstroom but the loss of Rhodes will mean a reshuffled batting order. Graeme Smith, who replaced Rhodes, is likely to open the batting with Herschelle Gibbs, which will mean Gary Kirsten dropping to number three, with Boeta Dippenaar moving from three to fill Rhodes' position at five. Gibbs will move into Rhodes' fielding position at backward point.