South Africa pick new-look squad for New Zealand Tests

Cricket South Africa has unveiled their men’s squad for the upcoming Test series against New Zealand, set to kick off in February. The 14-member squad, led by the uncapped 27-year-old batting all-rounder Neil Brand, includes seven players yet to make their Test debut. This marks only the second instance in Test cricket history where a player captains in his inaugural Test match.

Interestingly, key players from the South African team won’t be part of the squad for the SA20 league’s second season, focusing on T20 preparations ahead of the T20 World Cup 2024 in the Caribbean and the USA in June. The absence of the first-choice bowling attack poses a challenge for South Africa in the World Test Championship (WTC).

Notably, players currently engaged in the India series, such as Aiden Markram, Temba Bavuma, and Kagiso Rabada, will miss the New Zealand tour due to their commitment to the SA20 league. Dean Elgar, not involved in the T20 tournament, will retire from Test cricket after the second and final Test against India.

Despite facing setbacks, including the unexpected signing of Tony de Zorzi by Durban’s Super Giants, South Africa remains optimistic about the New Zealand series. The squad comprises eight capped Test players, led by the experienced Duanne Olivier and Keegan Petersen.

Red-ball coach Shukri Conrad expressed confidence in the chosen players, emphasizing their potential to challenge New Zealand.

“We have full confidence they will do exactly that when we arrive for the first Test match at Mount Maunganui. Most of these guys participated in the recent ‘A’ series against West Indies where they showed that they have what it takes against players of international calibre. That experience will no doubt leave them in a better position for what we expect to be a testing series in New Zealand,” stated Conrad as quoted by ESPNcricinfo, highlighting the players’ exposure to international caliber during the recent ‘A’ series against West Indies.

South Africa Test squad: Neil Brand (c), David Bedingham, Ruan de Swardt, Clyde Fortuin, Zubayr Hamza, Tshepo Moreki, Mihlali Mpongwana, Duanne Olivier, Dane Paterson, Keegan Petersen, Dane Piedt, Raynard van Tonder, Shaun von Berg, Khaya Zondo