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Unheralded Proteas out to prove a point in New Zealand Tests

By AFP

February 3, 2024 10:57 AM


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Stand-in South African captain Neil Brand said Saturday the two-Test series against New Zealand has handed his group of unheralded players a "massive opportunity" to become first-choice internationals.

Brand is among eight uncapped players in an overhauled 15-man tour squad preparing for the first Test starting in Mount Maunganui on Sunday.

Nearly all of the Proteas' first-choice players weren't selected because of their contractual obligation to play in the country's domestic Twenty20 league, a cash cow for Cricket South Africa.

There are just 51 combined Test caps in Brand's squad, the most experienced player being pace bowler Duanne Olivier, whose 15 Tests have been spread over the last seven years.

New Zealand's squad of 13 boasts 480 caps between them.

The second-string nature of the tourists has drawn criticism, most notably from former Australian captain Steve Waugh, who described Cricket South Africa's priorities as "a defining moment in the death of Test cricket".

Brand said he and his players had accepted the criticism was valid but they had turned it into a form of motivation and had vowed to prove themselves.

"It's a massive opportunity. The message has been pretty simple, we just want everyone to be the best version of themselves," he said.

"It's a great responsibility and a great opportunity for all the guys here to stake a claim for the Test side.

"There's some very good players in our dressing room. I'm sure some of them will still be in the side in a few months' time."

Also driving the tourists was their unbeaten Test series record against New Zealand, having won 13 of the 17 series dating back to 1931, with the other four drawn.

"It's a record we're desperate to keep, I want to fly back on the plane knowing we've done something special here," Brand said.

"Hopefully we'll surprise the people of New Zealand. But it'll be a tough series for us and we'll have to do very well to compete with them."

New Zealand counterpart Tim Southee said there was no chance of taking the tourists lightly, pointing out all of his opponents had enjoyed accomplished first class careers.

The Black Caps had uncovered "scraps of footage" that would help them prepare for their unfamiliar opponents, he said.

Southee confirmed he had a full squad to choose from, with veteran batter Kane Williamson, wicketkeeper Tom Blundell and seamer Kyle Jamieson having all shaken off hamstring complaints.

Both captains said rain this week had made it hard to assess the state of the Bay Oval pitch, but the forecast was for fine weather throughout the Test.


AFP


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