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England ready for Protea test

Michael Vaughan has insisted England's fierce rivalry with South Africa will not boil over into a stormy confrontation in today's crucial World Cup Super Eight match.

Victory for either side should ensure their qualification for the semi-finals - in England's case for the first time since 1992 - and there are fears the high stakes could prompt a fiery encounter.

But despite several similar incidents the last time the two sides met in South Africa in 2004-05 and in England in 2003, Vaughan believes the two sides will be competitive but will not overstep the boundaries set by the International Cricket Council's code of conduct.

"It should be a great contest, the biggest game of the World Cup so far and we're looking forward to it," said England captain Vaughan.

"We don't mind each other off the park, but when you're playing such a tough sport and you have 11 guys out in the middle playing it tough, it's bound to get a little bit fiery.

"It's always banter and it's nothing that gets too personal. It's just banter out in the middle trying to put each other off and I'm sure this match will be the same.

"We want the game to be played in a hard-fought spirit. Banter in the middle is great for the game and I'm sure there will be plenty of it, but you don't want it to go over the edge."

South Africa captain Graeme Smith has a habit of inciting rows between the two sides, which began with a stormy encounter with former England captain Nasser Hussain during the 2003 series after he had referred to his rival as "whatsisname".

Smith and Kevin Pietersen have also grown to dislike each other with the Hampshire batsman referring to the Proteas skipper as "a muppet" and admitted yesterday: "I think everyone knows we don't get on."

There were further flare-ups between the two captains during that 2004-05 series, although Vaughan insisted any previous problems have now been settled.

"We're fine," claimed Vaughan.

"There is no issue with Graeme Smith. He's a very good captain and a very good leader of his team and I have a huge amount of respect for him."

For all the concern about possible confrontations, however, England's biggest concern will be how they are going to raise their level of performance to claim their first major victory of the tournament.

After six weeks in the Caribbean, England only have victories over Canada, Kenya, Ireland and Bangladesh to show for their efforts and have lost every encounter against a major Test side.

But Vaughan believes the big occasion can bring the best out of his side, just as they did during the climax to the Commonwealth Bank series recently when England rose from an all-time low to beat Australia in the finals.

He said: "We realise our performance levels have to improve from where it's been at, but we certainly are the kind of team that can do that.

"We showed in Australia when we were down and out and came back to win the Commonwealth Bank Series.

"We feel at a similar level, we know we've done it before and we see no reason why we can't do it again."

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