Proteas Test tour to New Zealand an opportunity for fringe players to prove their mettle

Proteas Test tour to New Zealand an opportunity for fringe players to prove their mettle
Proteas red-ball coach Shukri Conrad at the post-match press conference during Day 2 of the 2nd Test match between South Africa and India at Newlands Cricket Ground on 4 January 2024 in Cape Town, South Africa. (Photo: Grant Pitcher / Gallo Images)

Despite a depleted Test squad, South Africa remain positive about their chances against the former World Test Championship winners.

South Africa take on the Black Caps in a two-match Test series set to start in just over a week in the Bay of Plenty in New Zealand.

The Proteas have sent a much-depleted squad to the country since many of the Test regulars are playing in the ongoing SA20 tournament.

There are eight uncapped players in the touring party, with fast-bowler Duanne Olivier the most experienced squad member with 15 Test caps.

Despite this, Proteas red-ball coach Shukri Conrad has refused to concede that his side are “underdogs” heading into the series against the former World Test Championship (WTC) winners.

“I don’t think any South African likes to be regarded as an underdog, and we’re certainly not assuming that underdog tag,” Conrad said.

Zubayr Hamza – who last represented the country at the start of  2022, coincidentally also against New Zealand in New Zealand – acknowledged that the series is an opportunity for those on the fringes to stake their claim for a regular Test spot.

“As much as this has been a series that’s been littered with tags and name tags, so to speak, it’s also seen from our perspective as an opportunity,” Hamza said.

“A lot of us have not played international cricket and there’s not a lot of knowledge regarding Test cricket.

“But everyone’s been excited and keen and the only way you’re going to experience it is by playing … gathering as much knowledge as you can and adapting going forward.

“From an individual perspective, it’s a massive opportunity for guys that haven’t seen what international cricket is like.”

Zubayr Hamza during the South Africa national men’s cricket team training session at Newlands Cricket Stadium on 5 January 2024 in Cape Town, South Africa. (Photo: Ashley Vlotman / Gallo Images)

‘Not here to participate’

Conrad, who has been at the helm for a year, noted that the tour to New Zealand is a chance for South Africa to express their strength in depth.

“We’ve got guys here that are out to prove both themselves and prove that the strength of the Proteas not only lies in the top 11,” the coach said.

“But we’re definitely here as a Proteas side, not as a second or third-rate side. Any one of these guys could be a replacement in a normal Proteas side.

“And if any motivation is required, we’ll certainly use that as motivation going forward.

“There’s a lot of experience sitting in that room … first-class experience … and they certainly don’t need more motivation than wearing that Proteas badge and singing the national anthem on matchday.”

The Proteas have a three-day warm-up game against New Zealand XI, which starts on Monday.

The same squad, except for Tony de Zorzi, also played two unofficial Test matches against West Indies A at the end of last year, so head into the New Zealand Tests with some familiarity.

“We built quite a strong chemistry and camaraderie within the settlement [already],” Hamza said.

With regards to the directive given to the inexperienced squad from Conrad, Hamza said: “It’s been pretty simple.”

“We are South Africans and naturally we are proud individuals, and as a team, we will be resilient and try our best to get as many [WTC] points as we can.

“Every match counts and it’s going to be a challenge, but we’re really looking forward to it and we’re going to go and compete on the park.

“We’re not here just to participate.”

First-class experience

Despite the lack of Test experience, there is a wealth of first-class experience.

Khaya Zondo, who is capped at Test level, has played 150 first-class matches. Leg-spinner Shaun von Berg has 135 domestic red-ball caps, while off-spinner Dane Piedt has also played more than 100 matches.

“We’ve had quite a few chats, including with the coaching staff, about what we aim to achieve from the series,” Hamza said.

“The squad … has been littered with tag lines and we strongly feel that that hasn’t necessarily played a massive part in our thought processes going into the series.

“The coaching staff is still the same. So, for the guys that haven’t had a test of international cricket, we’ve still been operating at the level and the standards that are required of an international team.

“I feel like a lot of the guys have adapted quite quickly to it. And that comes with a whole lot of discipline, on and off the field.” DM

The first Test will be played at Mount Maunganui’s Bay Oval from 4-8 February, with the second Test at Hamilton’s Seddon Park from 13-17 February.


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Heinrich Holt says:

    Good luck guys. You are real cricketers. As much as we enjoy SA20, it remains white ball tonking. You guys represent the spirit of true red ball cricket. You have my full backing no matter the result.

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