SOUTH Africans will be pleased to know that the first team from their country who played at Eden Park came away victorious – the 1921 Springboks beat the All Blacks 9-5 in the inaugural rugby test at the ground.
Yesterday, when Proteas coach Russell Domingo was asked what it meant to his men to play at one of rugby’s most storied citadels, the gentleman’s game played by hooligans was indeed on the coach’s mind.
“Play rugby? Not against the All Blacks,” Domingo joked. “We would like to play Pakistan in rugby.”
Because South Africa would be guaranteed victory?
Having dummied, Domingo took the gap: “Not with Irfan at lock.”
Ah, Mohammad Irfan, all 2.18m of him. And Wahab Riaz. And Rahat Ali. They are all leftarm fast bowlers, and each is capable of derailing the train that has made South Africa the only team in one-day history to post totals of more than 400 twice in two games.
“The tall man, Irfan, has been bowling really well,” Domingo said. “Riaz has bowled the quickest ball in the competition thus far – 154km/h. They are definitely an attack that needs to be respected and we need to take care against them.”
The teams will clash tomorrow in a match that has important implications for their future in the World Cup tournament.
South Africa will want to put their best XI on the field to meet the challenge. Who might comprise that team has become a significant debate, what with Rilee Rossouw and Kyle Abbott making fine use of the opportunities created for them by injuries to JP Duminy and Vernon Philander.
Both the latter missed South Africa’s matches against West Indies and Ireland and are due to undergo fitness tests yesterday.