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South Africa face up to Eden Park demons

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 13/02/2017 Daniel Gilhooly
Imran Tahir of South Africa looks on as Grant Elliott of New Zealand hugs Dale Steyn of South Africa up after winning the 2015 Cricket World Cup Semi Final match between New Zealand and South Africa at Eden Park on March 24, 2015 in Auckland, New Zealand. © Getty Images Imran Tahir of South Africa looks on as Grant Elliott of New Zealand hugs Dale Steyn of South Africa up after winning the 2015 Cricket World Cup Semi Final match between New Zealand and South Africa at Eden Park on March 24, 2015 in Auckland, New Zealand.

South Africa have arrived in New Zealand full of confidence after replacing Australia at the top of the one-day cricket rankings but the Proteas will have mixed feelings about their return to Eden Park.

The three-Test tour kicks off with a Twenty20 international on Friday at the ground where South Africa lost the 2015 World Cup semi-final to the hosts when Grant Elliott smashed a six off paceman Dale Steyn on the second-last ball.

South Africa had been fancied to shed their reputation as World Cup 'chokers' and reach a maiden final in the global showpiece and the defeat left several players in tears.

It was later described by shattered captain AB De Villiers as his' "greatest disappointment".

Test and T20 captain Faf du Plessis, who top-scored for his team in the semi-final with 82, says he still carries scars from the match.

"It was a great game, but it'll be mixed feelings getting back there," Du Plessis told reporters.

"Honestly, something like that you always carry it with you. As a team, we've definitely put it behind us, but the emotions of the day will always be with us.

"That's not a bad thing. Although we were on the wrong side of winning the game, it was a great game of cricket and something that will always be with us."

After the one-off T20 match, the teams play five ODI's before the opening match of the Test series in Dunedin next month.

The Proteas will look to stretch their golden summer into autumn, having swept both Australia and Sri Lanka 5-0 in one-day series at home.

South Africa also beat Steve Smith's Australia 2-1 away in their test series and returned home to sweep the Sri Lankans 3-0 but face a New Zealand team unbeaten at home this summer across all formats.

Du Plessis said the tour would be good preparation for the ICC Champions Trophy in England and Wales in June, a tournament the Proteas have underperformed in since winning the inaugural edition in 1998.

"We are putting a huge amount of emphasis on one-day cricket," added the 32-year-old.

"New Zealand have a great energy in their team and they are very competitive, especially in the fielding department, so you always feel their presence."

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