AB’s focus on Champions Trophy

Times Media


TELFORD VICE, Cape Town

AB de Villiers’ phone lit up with a message in the hours after South Africa drilled New Zealand by 78 runs at Eden Park in Hamilton on Friday.

“Well done – it’s just a T20, we know, but it takes a bit to beat the Kiwis at Eden Park,” the message read, De Villiers told reporters on Saturday.

Who sent it?

“A certain Mr Wynand Claassen,” De Villiers said.

Claassen, who hails from an era when players had real lives, is also an architect and an artist.

But he will always be remembered for captaining the Boks on their 1981 tour of New Zealand, which was about a lot more than rugby.

Vociferous opposition to the tour by a team representing South Africa’s racist white establishment was mounted by anti-apartheid organisations.

Those efforts culminated at Eden Park, which was flour-bombed during the third test by a light aircraft piloted by activists Marx Jones and Grant Cole.   

Thirty-six years on, bombs no longer fall from the sky on those who represent a more inclusive South Africa.

Instead, they come from within.

Here’s one: South Africa have never reached the final of a World Cup, Champions Trophy or World T20.

They have another chance to do so – and perhaps even win it – at the Champions Trophy in England in June.

Which frames the relevance of the one-day series between New Zealand and South Africa that starts in Hamilton on Sunday.

“It’s definitely a build-up towards the Champions Trophy,” De Villiers said.

“It’s a big goal of ours to do well in that tournament – not just to do well, hopefully to win it.

“We know it’s a long way to go for us to get there and we know this is a great stepping stone for us to get ready for that tournament.

“The conditions are pretty similar; the ball moves around when it’s new and then you’ve got to extend your partnerships once you get in.

“It’s very similar to the UK and there’s no better team than the New Zealanders to test your skill against.”

Testing themselves against their own insecurities has been the examination South Africa have failed to pass in previous tournaments.

What are their chances of doing so this time?

“The belief in the squad is as high as I’ve ever experienced it,” De Villiers said. “There’s a great respect among the players and a sense of direction.

“We’ve played well but we know it can change in a matter of minutes. There’s a deep respect for the game and the fact that you can go into a dip at any time.

“I believe that what we have in this team will carry us through good and bad times.”

South Africa’s most recent memorable defeat was at Eden Park, where they lost the 2015 World Cup semi-final to New Zealand when Grant Elliott hit Dale Steyn for six with ball remaining in the match.

“That game’s been played about a thousand times on TV over the last few days, so I’ve been reliving those emotions,” De Villiers said.

“It’s all good memories, really. I’ve got through all the pain.

“We had a great camp where we got everything out on the table and dealt with the emotions and the heartache.

“But we’re past that now. Watching the game these past few days I just saw good things.

“That will never disappear – we lost that World Cup semi-final and there’s nothing we can do about it.

“All you can focus on is the now.”

The now starts in Hamilton on Sunday.

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