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Durban – South Africa’s new Twenty20 captain Faf du Plessis expects a close three-game series against New Zealand.
“It’s a completely level playing field,” Du Plessis said ahead of the first match at Kingsmead in Durban on Friday.
“We have a nice young squad and with a young squad comes a lot of energy.”
The 28-year-old was named as skipper in order to lift some of the responsibility off regular limited-overs leader AB de Villiers’ shoulders.
Du Plessis' first assignment was leading a fairly inexperienced home team against a more depleted touring side, without several of their star names.
“The Kiwis always bring competitiveness to the party,” he said.
“They always play as the underdog, they like that tag. So there’ll be no room for complacency. The teams are equally matched and we’re expecting a very tough series.”
Leading batsman Ross Taylor was out due to a spat with the national board, while their main bowler Tim Southee was expected to miss the series due to paternity leave, before an injury also ruled him out of the two Test matches in January.
The South Africans were without some of their senior players – wicketkeeper De Villiers pulled out earlier this week to rest, joining Jacques Kallis and Hashim Amla.
Promising youngster Quinton de Kock, one of four uncapped players in the side along with Chris Morris, Henry Davids and Aaron Phangiso, was the only wicketkeeper in the squad and would make his debut.
Dale Steyn was expected to lead the bowling attack, before being replaced for the next two games by Morne Morkel.
Du Plessis had a memorable Test debut against Australia last month when he batted for seven-and-a-half hours to make 110 not out, an effort that effectively set the Proteas on their way to their series win.
He got engaged last week and the accolade of taking charge of his country was the latest achievement in a remarkable rise.
“I’m very grateful for the last couple of months,” Du Plessis said.
“But I really do know that I’ve got to keep my feet on the ground because it can change very quickly. So I’m still practising very hard, making sure I tick all the boxes and hopefully that good form can continue.”
New Zealand captain Brendon McCullum played down the significance of the inexperience in his side, saying he saw it rather as an opportunity for some of the new faces to shine.
Two out of five uncapped players, Colin Munro and Mitchell McClenaghan, who shone in the 24-run-up win against South Africa 'A' on Tuesday, were set to feature.
The likes of Martin Guptill and Doug Bracewell will return after being rested in Pietermaritzburg.
“I’m pretty pleased at the moment because the guys have prepared pretty well,” McCullum said.
“We had a good warm-up game the other day where we got to try out some combinations and see some of the guys in action. So we’re really looking forward to what I see as a huge opportunity for this team.” – Sapa