Centurion: New Zealand's struggling cricketers will be trying to defy the odds when they meet South Africa in the second and final Test at Centurion Park.
After suffering a record 358-run defeat in the first Test in Johannesburg last weekend, the injury-hit tourists had to call on two replacements, opening batsman Jamie How and bowler Kyle Mills, ahead of the Centurion Test, where they can expect another assault from South Africa's fired-up fast bowlers.
The difference in confidence and preparedness between the two teams was shown Tuesday when the South Africans played golf and the Black Caps had a hard practice in an attempt to eradicate some of the flaws that undermined their efforts in the first Test.
The tourists worked particularly hard on fielding after dropping several catches in Johannesburg.
South Africa have again included veteran allrounder Shaun Pollock in their 12-man squad but comments by captain Graeme Smith make it seem doubtful whether Pollock will make the starting line-up after missing South Africa's last three Test matches in which the Proteas opted for a three-man pace battery backed by left-arm spinner Paul Harris.
The team has been unchanged through a two-match series win in Pakistan and the first Test against New Zealand and Smith said after the first Test that the current team deserved to be rewarded for their success.
In an internet column, Smith said he had more bowling options than at any other time during his four years as captain.
"We took a difficult decision with regards to (omitting) Shaun Pollock but there was always going to come a time when we had to look towards the future.
"Everybody is wondering what Polly is going to do with his career. We all still have a huge amount of respect for Polly and I'm sure there will be games where we will be grateful for his ability and experience.
"There are now young fast bowlers who are ready and it's important that we use this time to blood them and give opportunities to them with tours of India and England approaching. There's Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel, and Makhaya (Ntini) and Andre Nel, while there's Polly also. These options are great to have as a captain.
"There is also Paul Harris, who has added a new dimension to our game. He is an attacking bowler and allows us to get fielders around the bat whether in the sub-continent or at home. However he also has the ability, if the ball is going around the park, to bowl defensively and allow us to put the brakes on at one end."
Steyn was the star of the first Test, with match figures of ten for 93, and he will be playing on his home ground. When South Africa beat New Zealand by 128 runs at Centurion in April 2006, Steyn and Ntini both took five wickets as the Black Caps were bundled out for 120 in the second innings.
New Zealand will be without fast bowler Shane Bond, who suffered an abdominal injury during the first Test, but are hoping all-rounder Jacob Oram will have recovered from a hamstring injury.
Oram made a century in the 2006 Centurion Test, enabling New Zealand to take a first innings lead before their second innings collapse.
New Zealand's top order batting remains their biggest concern, however, although the pitch is unlikely to be as difficult for batting as the cracked, uneven surface at the Wanderers which was exploited successfully by the South African fast bowlers.
Smith criticised South African pitches in general after the Johannesburg Test and said he hoped for a fairer contest between bat and ball at Centurion.
But even if conditions are better for batsmen, Centurion usually has pace and bounce, which will still favour fast bowling.
South Africa: Graeme Smith (captain), Herschelle Gibbs, Hashim Amla, Jacques Kallis, Ashwell Prince, AB de Villiers, Mark Boucher (wk), Andre Nel, Paul Harris, Dale Steyn, Makhaya Ntini and Shaun Pollock.
New Zealand: Daniel Vettori (captain), Craig Cumming, Michael Papps, Stephen Fleming, Scott Styris, Ross Taylor, Jacob Oram, Brendon McCullum (wk), Michael Mason, Iain O'Brien, Chris Martin, Jamie How, Lou Vincent, Kyle Mills, Mark Gillespie and Jeetan Patel.
Umpires: Mark Benson (Eng), Daryl Harper (Aus). Match referee: Javagal Srinath (Ind).