Cape Town - The Proteas will be eyeing a fresh start to reclaiming their test supremacy when they take on New Zealand in the opening Sunfoil test match at Sahara Stadium Kingsmead in Durban on Friday.
Stand-in captain, Faf du Plessis, says he is relishing the opportunity to challenge his captaincy skills in the longest format of the game, after serving as one-day and T20 captain for South Africa.
The 32 year-old will become the 11th player to captain the Proteas in a test match since re-admission, and leads a squad determined to return to winning ways and to move up from the lowly seventh position in the ICC test rankings.
The absence of AB de Villiers as a leader and in the line-up will be glaring, however, Du Plessis has full confidence in the selected batsmen to make contributions, particularly after patchy series against India and England.
“Being named captain is an incredible honour,” Du Plessis said to the media in Durban on Thursday. “I’ve been fortunate enough to do it in the one-day and T20’s but there is just something special about test cricket.
“It’s a new season, we need to focus on the strength of our batting line-up and the only way we can do that is by putting runs on the board,” he explained.
“We have been practising hard and the guys look like they are in a good space. Obviously AB leaves a bit of a hole, he is also a huge member of our test line-up, even if you look at his statistics over the last period, India definitely had an effect on all of us. It’s nice that that season is done, we can focus on a new season which will hopefully be a good one to come, especially for the batsmen.”
The duo of Dale Steyn and Vernon Philander return to make up their lethal new-ball pairing after nearly eight months apart, and along with Kagiso Rabada, form an explosive attack well balanced by experience and raw pace.
“Both of them are fit and they will both play,” Du Plessis said of Steyn and Philander.
“They are two massive bowlers for us and we will be the first to say that we saw against England that you cannot replace an experienced bowling attack. If you take Southee and Boult out of New Zealand or an Anderson and Broad out of England they are all different teams. They are guys that can relentlessly bowl good areas for a long period of time, there is no substitute for that in test cricket. Young bowlers can come in a do well in any other format, but I think in test cricket experience is really important.”