New Proteas captain Neil Brand believes his below-strength squad has enough collective first-class experience to be competitive on their two-Test tour of New Zealand.
Only seven of the 15-man squad have played Test cricket – and only two of them appeared in a recent home series against India.
Most of South Africa’s leading players were unavailable because they are contracted to the SA20 franchise competition.
“Someone pointed out that we have an average of 96 first-class games per player,” said Brand, one of eight uncapped players. “That’s a lot of experience. We’re going to give it our best shot. I think it’s good that we’re going as underdogs. People have written us off and we’re using that as motivation.”
The 27-year-old was speaking at a press conference ahead of the team’s departure for New Zealand on Friday evening.
Brand, who captains the Northerns Titans, said he was inspired by teammate and fellow left-handed opening batsman Dean Elgar, who retired from international cricket after the series against India.
“Opening the batting you have to learn to be tough. That’s something I’ve learned in the past few years, batting with Dean – how to score runs in tough situations. I’ve seen him do it and it makes me want to do it as well.”
Brand said being underdogs would not take pressure off his team.
“At the end of the day we’re still wearing the Proteas badge and we’re desperate to come back with something,” he said.
“New Zealand are a settled side and they have been very good in their home conditions. They’ve got a good bowling attack and a long batting lineup.”
Brand said a three-match A series against the West Indies A, which featured most of the players going to New Zealand, had been invaluable.
“Going into that series I didn’t really know anyone on a personal level. After those three games everyone was so tight, I am grateful for that.”
Fast bowler Duanne Olivier, whose 15 Test caps are the most in the squad, said he was looking to resurrect a Test career stalled by injuries and problems with his bowling action.
“I was at a bowling camp in June which helped me a lot. There were a few technical things which led to a few injuries. A lot of things didn’t go right for me.”
Olivier said he was confident about South Africa’s prospects. “We’re a good team and we played some good cricket against the West Indies,” he said.
Proteas Test squad: Neil Brand (c), David Bedingham, Ruan de Swardt, Clyde Fortuin (wkt), Zubayr Hamza, Eddie Moore, Tshepo Moreki, Mihlali Mpongwana, Duanne Olivier, Dane Paterson, Keegan Petersen, Dane Piedt, Raynard van Tonder, Shaun von Berg, Khaya Zondo.
29-31 January: Warm-up match, Christchurch
4-8 February: 1st Test, Mount Maunganui
13-17 February, 2nd Test, Hamilton
© Agence France-Presse
Photo: Lefty Shivambu/Gallo Images