Their strength, they said, was their increased experience of English conditions. The rand might have weakened since last time - shopping looks like being almost twice as expensive for them but that could not be said of South African cricket.
Hansie Cronje, the tourists' captain, in effect thanked the county system at the opening press conference yesterday for providing quality experience for the nucleus of his side since their previous visit under Kepler Wessels.
Six players had had at least one summer's county cricket, five of them in the last three years. ``We've got a good idea what conditions are going to be like now,'' Cronje said.
``Very much of the credit from the last tour should go to Kepler for the way he kept us together and getting us so close to winning the series. With the limited experience available, that was a magnificent effort.''
Since Wessels's tour, four of South Africa's best players Daryll Cullinan, Jacques Kallis, Shaun Pollock and Cronje joined Allan Donald and Brian McMillan as fully fledged county players. Pollock, especially, developed his outswinger, ominously from England's point of view, during his 1996 season at Warwickshire, having kicked off with four wickets in four balls against Leicestershire in a one-day game, his first match.
Englishman Bob Woolmer, South Africa's coach, said of Pollock yesterday: ``He's one of the best all-rounders I've seen since Gary Sobers. He's the best I've seen for a long, long time.''
Though players such as Pollock certainly benefited from county cricket, England's players have had the opportunity to assess them for themselves to balance out any advantages, though one player still largely a mystery would be Paul Adams, the unorthodox left-arm wrist spinner.
Adams hardly bowled during the South Africa A tour to England two years ago, and the Cape Coloured bowler has been hampered by injuries, shin splints being the most recent.
Adams, 21, enjoyed some loosening overs at Lord's, and his action still looked like 'a frog in a blender', as it had been described, or 'a man removing a hub cap from a moving car', as more recently suggested. His stock delivery remained the low-flighted googly yesterday, turning away from the right-hander, though Cronje said he had been developing a top-spinner for variation. ``He doesn't mind how you describe his action,'' he added.
``He has found it pretty hard now that everyone knows what he bowls, and he's had to work at different variations. He has come on a lot, matured as a person and I believe he's going to play a key role for us on the tour.''
Cronje and Woolmer were grateful for the sunshine, mindful of the Australians' rain-sodden and unsuccessful build-up last year, and they agreed that it would be ``foolish'' to underestimate England, with Cronje adding: ``England at home and England away are two different teams.''
The South Africans have set up base at the Waldorf Hotel in London, refreshed after a 17-day break from cricket when, according to Woolmer, they did not pick up a bat or ball. The first match of their three-month tour is a three-dayer at Worcester, starting on Thursday. One thing is certain, they will be scanning the weather forecasts.
About 1,500 tickets are still available for England's Texaco Trophy one-day international against South Africa in Manchester on May 23, and many more remain unsold for Leeds the following day, a Sunday.