The Kiwis were whitewashed by Bangladesh and India in an ODI series and had lost their home series to Pakistan 2-3 two weeks before the World Cup.
In the quadrennial event, New Zealand blew hot and cold, winning four matches and losing two against Australia and Sri Lanka to finish fourth with eight points in Group A.
Their most sensational victory was the 110-run triumph over Pakistan in Pallekele where Ross Taylor gave a stunning display of power-hitting on his 27th birthday and South Africa should not make the mistake of taking them lightly.
"We know we're up against a quality team and if we're not on top of our game it's going to be a tough match," South Africa off-spinner Johan Botha said.
In Image: New Zealand's cricketers Scott Styris warms up during a training session
Full Coverage: World Cup 2011