Kane Williamson remembers taking a painful blow to his groin the last time he played South Africa in a test but he also recalls facing the most fearsome attack he has come up against in his two-year international career.

It will provide little comfort for the New Zealand batsman that he will face a virtually identical South African bowling lineup in the upcoming two-test series and, just to make it even more difficult, will need to do it on their own conditions.

The Proteas medicos are optimistic fast bowler Vernon Philander and all-rounder Jacques Kallis will both be fit for the first test after making good progress from their respective hamstring strains.

Philander tormented the New Zealand batsmen last summer, taking 21 wickets, and the Black Caps found little relief at the other end as Morkel and Dale Steyn steamed in. All three are in line to play the first test starting in Cape Town on January 2, along with Kallis who needs another 20 runs to become just the fourth player in test history to score 13,000 runs.


Williamson will shoulder a considerable burden in the series, just as he did last summer. The 22-year-old scored a match-saving 102 not out in the third test in Wellington, shaking off the painful blow to his groin and cementing his reputation as one of the most promising batsmen to emerge in this country for some time.

That will count little for a South African side at the peak of their powers and they will see New Zealand as vulnerable given the Black Caps are desperately shorn of quality and experience with Taylor, Jesse Ryder, Tim Southee and Daniel Vettori all missing.

Williamson said their goal was to "challenge'' South Africa and "compete really well'' and hope that put them on course for victory, but he is realistic.

"We have played a lot of teams in different conditions but, to me, that attack we faced [in the home series last summer] was the best I had ever come up against and the most demanding,'' he said. "And then they have the batsmen to go with it. I don't know how many they have in the world's top 10 at the moment. The level of cricket they bring is of the highest quality and it's a great challenge.

"It's always great to play such a fierce opposition and it's where the level of cricket is at at the moment, playing the No 1 team in the world.''

Williamson got a gentle introduction to South African conditions overnight (NZT) when he played his first innings since arriving in the country. New Zealand scored 311 for six batting on a docile pitch on the first day of a three-day match against a South African Invitational XI in Paarl, with Williamson scoring 59.

He put on 108 for the third wicket with skipper Brendon McCullum (65) and all of the New Zealand batsmen got starts.

The Cape Town pitch promises to offer a little more life, and Williamson will hope it results in good memories.