South Africa

Coaching staff trying to minimise pressure on Proteas, says Botha

Cricket 27

Well aware of the immense challenge they face on tour, Proteas bowling coach Piet Botha says team management are trying to keep the inexperienced national squad calm and focused as they gear up for a two-Test series against New Zealand starting next week.

Much has been said about eight uncapped players being included in the squad, with many first-choice stars being unavailable due to SA20 commitments, but Botha said yesterday they were trying not to allow their underdog tag to weigh them down.

“The players know there’s a lot of expectation on them and additional pressure,” Botha said.

“Obviously a lot of people will be watching and there will be crowds, and I think it will be followed all around the world, so these players are very aware of the expectations.

“For us (team management) it’s just about trying to take as much pressure off them as possible, and the guys are really preparing well and getting used to the conditions, so at the moment it’s going as well as it can.”

Historic record

Having never lost a Test series against New Zealand, Botha said the Proteas squad understood the importance of trying to keep that record intact, and he believed they had the ability to return home with a series victory in the bag.

“We’re very motivated to play for the badge and make sure every guy fights for every inch because (Test cricket) is a tough game which can go deep into five days,” he said.

“We just need to prepare ourselves to ensure we can compete, and we know we’re going to compete against New Zealand.

“If we can get out of this series with either a win or a draw, that will be fantastic for us.”

New Zealand squad

Meanwhile, star batters Kane Williamson, who will make his return from injury, and Rachin Ravindra, who replaces veteran Henry Nicholls in the middle order, were named yesterday in the New Zealand squad for the series.

“It was a very tough decision. Henry has been part of the squad for 56 Tests. Whenever you leave a player out, it weighs heavy, but we felt it’s time for Rachin,” New Zealand head coach Gary Stead told AFP.

Pace bowler Kyle Jamieson also returns after a back injury, while uncapped seamer Will O’Rourke will be added to the squad for the second Test in Hamilton.

The first Test between SA and New Zealand starts on 4 February at Mount Maunganui.