Auckland, Mar 23: A pumped up New Zealand's energywill clash with the seemingly unmatched might of South Africa when the two teams strive to shed the past baggage of semi-final failures and seal a historic place in the cricket World Cup final, here tomorrow.
Both the teams are chasing history for as neither hosts New Zealand nor the Proteas have ever reached the World Cup final. The Kiwis have fallen at the semifinal stage six times in the past while South Africa have made three exits from the same stage.
New Zealand were a dominant side in the pool stage and the way they annihilated the West Indies in the quarterfinal, thanks to the batting pyrotechnics of Martin Guptill, the hosts are bubbling with new-found energy.
They have looked unstoppable with seven straight wins with every match throwing up a new hero, the latest being Guptill, who smashed his way to history books with a scintillating 237 not out against the Caribbeans.
New Zealand have treated the rival attacks with utter disdain so far but in the Proteas, they face the might of Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel, who when in form can devastate any batting line-up in the world.
New Zealand coach Mike Hesson said past failures won't matter much since the two sides are playing gloriously. "I don't think there's any baggage with anyone. It's a one-off game and we are all desperate to be at the big party and I'm sure we'll both turn up. Two sides are playing good cricket and it's going to be a heck of a show," he said.
The only worrying factor for New Zealand is that they have lost paceman Adam Milne to a heel injury, making way for young fast bowler Matt Henry in the squad. It is the last match that New Zealand will host in this edition and they would love to sign off on home turf on a winning note but the opponents they are facing now are equally potent and more dangerous than any other team.
The pressure of expectations will be there from the home fans but skipper Brendon McCullum said they would not think about it much.
"The way we've been playing has been a pretty exciting brand of cricket. Just because it's a pressure game we shouldn't change that. It's our greatest chance of success.
For us to win World Cups and crunch games we need to remain true to that. That's our most authentic style of cricket and I wouldn't think that will change tomorrow," he said.
It is difficult to predict tomorrow's winner
While New Zealand have always played as underdogs, the Proteas have carried the tag of chokers along and it won't leave team if they fail to win tomorrow.
"There has been a lot of emphasis on our past and South Africa not doing well at World Cups. We don't mind that too much. I have gone through the whole package of emotions, fighting it, accepting it, then fighting it again," South African captain AB De Villiers said.
De Villiers himself would be crucial to how the strong contenders perform tomorrow given that his bat has been the most potent among all his teammates.
Higher up the order, it would be the responsibility Hashim Amla and the back-in-form Quinton de Kock. But Faf du Plessis' bat has been relatively quiet and a big innings would be expected of it now.
It is difficult to predict tomorrow's winner as the two teams possess able batsmen and equally potent attacks, holding out promise for an explosive clash.
New Zealand: Brendon McCullum (Captain), Corey Anderson, Trent Boult, Grant Elliott, Martin Guptill, Tom Latham, Mitchell McClenaghan, Nathan McCullum, Kyle Mills, Luke Ronchi, Tim Southee, Ross Taylor, Daniel Vettori, Kane Williamson and Matt Henry.
South Africa: AB de Villiers (Captain), Hashim Amla, Kyle Abbott, Farhaan Behardien, Quinton de Kock, Jean-Paul Duminy, Faf du Plessis, Imran Tahir, David Miller, Morne Morkel, Wayne Parnell, Aaron Phangiso, Vernon Philander, Rilee Rossouw and Dale Steyn.
Match starts at 6 30 AM IST