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Battling a management crisis, with their best batsman, Ross Taylor, not touring and senior allrounder Dan Vettori out injured, they've been written off by a former South African test player as not worth paying for at the turnstiles.
"I probably wouldn't pay money to see New Zealand play if Taylor and Vettori were in the side," former test seamer and national selector Craig Matthews said.
"Take them out of the side and they have huge problems. You couldn't justify calling off the tour, but thank goodness it's only a two-match test series."
Matthews, who played 18 tests and 56 ODIs between 1991 and 1997, won't be a lone voice in the republic, either.
South Africa, undefeated in 10 tests this year, cemented their world No1 ranking in the test game with their huge win over Australia at Perth last week. New Zealand sit eighth. They are No2 in ODIs; New Zealand are ninth, below Bangladesh.
And in T20s they are fifth, three spots ahead of New Zealand.
Cricket South Africa has conceded no Taylor and no Vettori is bad news for the marketing of the tour, which includes three T20 internationals, beginning on December 18, two tests and three ODIs.
"The bigger the stars, the bigger the attraction," acting CEO Jacques Faul said. "So if you lose a few it is a concern. You need the big names in there."
The small upside from a South African perspective is that having watched their players win overseas against England and Australia, this is their first chance since then to see them live.
"We're very proud of our team ... But they were away to England and Australia, and this is the public's chance to see their boys at home," Faul said.
For all the turmoil running through New Zealand cricket, by contrast South African coach Gary Kirsten's biggest worry now is how to keep "old dog" Jacques Kallis going.
Kallis, 37, affected by a hamstring injury, didn't bowl in South Africa's 309-run win in Perth. Kirsten wants to manage his international time to prolong his career.
That may mean less bowling for the world's best allrounder, who has scored 12,980 runs at 56.9 and taken 282 wickets in a 17-year test career comprising 158 matches.
"But we will keep the old dog going for as long as we can, and to do that we will consider scaling down his bowling in the future."
- David Leggat