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SA-born Neil Wagner may be a Kiwi now, but he knows Proteas will come back firing

New Zealand's Neil Wagner celebrates the wicket, LBW of South Africa's Temba Bavuma during play on day three of the first Test Photo: Andrew Cornaga /www.photosport.nz via BackpagePix

New Zealand's Neil Wagner celebrates the wicket, LBW of South Africa's Temba Bavuma during play on day three of the first Test Photo: Andrew Cornaga /www.photosport.nz via BackpagePix

Published Feb 22, 2022

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Cape Town - New Zealand's South African-born seamer Neil Wagner insists his loyalty is with the Black Caps and that playing against the Proteas now "is a lot different to what it was when I started my career".

Wagner, 35, learnt his trade at Afrikaans Hoer School during the same period that Proteas legends Faf du Plessis and AB de Villiers were at Affies before graduating through to the Northerns semi-pro ranks where he would have also rubbed shoulders with the Morkel brothers (Albie and Morne) and Dale Steyn.

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However, Wagner could not break through into the powerful Titans team and opted to move from Pretoria to Otago to pursue his career 14 years ago now.

It proved to be the correct decision with Wagner enjoying a stellar international career, playing 58 Tests for the Black Caps and picking up 238 wickets in the process.

ALSO READ: WATCH: Proteas have the character to bounce back in second Test, says Temba Bavuma

And with the likes of Du Plessis, De Villiers, Steyn and the Morkel brothers having retired for a few years already, Wagner doesn't have much of a connection to the Proteas these days.

"People ask me that question (about divided loyalties), obviously, because I was born there. But I've been living here for 14 years now, so it's something I don't think about too much, or it doesn't really feel that way," Wagner said in the build-up to the second Test.

"I probably only really know two or three guys in that team anyway. So it's a lot different to what it was when I started my career personally."

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Wagner is fully committed to ensuring the Black Caps close out the second Test against the Proteas starting on Friday in Christchurch. The hosts lead the two-match series 1-0 after thrashing the Proteas by a record innings and 276 runs last weekend at the Hagley Oval.

ALSO READ: Proteas take much needed break after nightmare Test in Christchurch

Anything other than a victory for the Proteas will see the Black Caps achieve their first ever Test series victory over South Africa since the teams first played each other back in 1931.

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"It was a strong performance [in the first Test], it was really good, obviously everyone chipped in, and in all facets. Yeah, pretty pleasing Test match for us, but it's something in the past now, got to put this behind us quite quickly and move forward to Friday, because South Africa is a quality team and will come back firing," Wagner said.

"They are a quality team, and we really want to, obviously, beat them in the series. They have always been a quality unit. Test cricket against any Test team is pretty tough, and every win is one you can treasure. This will be pretty special, but it's no different to any of the other ones."

@ZaahierAdams

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