CARDIFF, WALES - JUNE 15: South Africa captain Faf du Plessis talks to Michael Atherton after the Group Stage match of the ICC Cricket World Cup 2019 between South Africa and Afghanistan at Cardiff Wales Stadium on June 15, 2019 in Cardiff, Wales. Picture: STU FORSTER-IDI / IDI / GETTY IMAGES
CARDIFF, WALES - JUNE 15: South Africa captain Faf du Plessis talks to Michael Atherton after the Group Stage match of the ICC Cricket World Cup 2019 between South Africa and Afghanistan at Cardiff Wales Stadium on June 15, 2019 in Cardiff, Wales. Picture: STU FORSTER-IDI / IDI / GETTY IMAGES

Birmingham — SA face their toughest test of the World Cup so far against New Zealand at Edgbaston on Wednesday.

Faf du Plessis’s team have already lost to tournament favourites India and England — along with going down to surprisingly competitive Bangladesh and suffering a washout against West Indies — and another defeat would drastically reduce their already waning chances of reaching the semifinals.

New Zealand are unbeaten having piled up wins against Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Afghanistan and been denied a crack at the Indians by the weather. But the Kiwis have had the luxury of playing the most unfancied sides first up, so they will also see Wednesday’s game as their biggest so far.

“It’s definitely going to be a big challenge to see where we’re at,” fast bowler Trent Boult said on Tuesday. “I think we've been lucky enough to be on a couple of new surfaces that have offered a lot to our style of bowling.

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“The challenge is always going to be to see what we can do on the wickets that don’t offer too much, and that’s what we’re prepared for here.”

SA’s attack, bolstered by the return of Lungi Ngidi, who missed the matches against India, West Indies and Afghanistan with a hamstring strain, should have the measure of New Zealand’s batting line-up.

That is if they are able to limit the damage caused by a top four of Martin Guptill, Colin Munro, Kane Williamson and Ross Taylor, who between them own 451 of the 531 runs scored by New Zealand’s batters, or 84.9%.

SA’s batters will have their work cut out trying to deal with a New Zealand attack who have dismissed their opponents every time, except in the abandoned game against India.

Lockie Ferguson, Matt Henry and Jimmy Neesham are all among the dozen leading bowlers at the tournament, a list that features Imran Tahir as the sole SA representative.

Quinton de Kock, Rassie van der Dussen and Faf du Plessis have carried SA's batting, scoring almost half their runs — 404 of 853. What are they doing that SA’s other players, none of whom have made a half-century, are not?

“I’m just trying to keep things simple,” De Kock said. “Faf does things differently to the way I do things and the way I prepare myself mentally. Rassie hasn’t played a lot of international cricket, but he’s been playing franchise cricket for so long that he understands this game pretty well. I'm not too sure how they’re doing it. But, whatever they’re doing, just keep on doing it.”

The Proteas have won 379 of the 592 completed one-day internationals they have played against New Zealand — a winning percentage of 64.02. But they are dramatically less successful against them at the World Cup, where they have lost five of their seven meetings.

SA crashed out to the Kiwis in the quarterfinals in 2011 and in the semifinals four years later.

“I remember hoping like heck that I don’t have to bat,” Boult said of the 2015 clash, when Grant Elliott slammed a straight six off Dale Steyn to clinch victory by four wickets with one ball remaining.

That night Boult was listed as New Zealand’s No11, where he has batted in 33 of his 35 innings in the format. If he has to bat on Wednesday, SA will fancy their chances.