Neil Brand fired up to lead Proteas into battle in New Zealand Test series

Neil Brand will captain the Proteas in New Zealand while making his Test debut. Picture: Shaun Roy / BackpagePix

Neil Brand will captain the Proteas in New Zealand while making his Test debut. Picture: Shaun Roy / BackpagePix

Published Jan 23, 2024


It just doesn’t happen in real life that a debutant also becomes the captain of a Test team – not just any team, but the Proteas Test team that is so rich in history.

It does not sound real, however, it is the storyline of the beginning of Neil Brand’s international Test career. He is set to lead the Proteas in the two-match Test series against the Black Caps in New Zealand.

“Going over to New Zealand, making your debut and being captain is something that’s quite rare,” Brand admitted to the media.

“I think it was the morning of the first day in Cape Town of the Test series where he (coach Rob Walter) called me and said, ‘Listen, you’re in the team and you’re also going to be captain’.

“Initially you’re like, ‘Wow, is this actually happening?’ Then you start realising that it’s going to become a thing and it’s just about taking it day by day.

“I know this tour has been quite highly spoken about in the media and it’s just about making sure that all 15 players are on the same page. We are definitely going to go to New Zealand to try to compete and win the series.

“I know people have written us off but at the end of the day we are still wearing a Proteas badge. We’re desperate to come back to South Africa with the series.”

The captaincy was a shock to Brand and the general public, given that there actually are capped Test cricketers such as Keegan Petersen and Dane Piedt in the side that could have taken on the role.

It was all part of coach Conrad’s plan, and looking back at the first half of the season, he had already made up his mind a long time ago who was going to lead the side in New Zealand. Perhaps it all boiled down to whether Brand could pass Conrad’s test.

The coach made Brand captain of the South Africa A side during the West Indies A Tour of South Africa. The 27-year-old scored a century in the first unofficial Test and went on to lead the side to a 2-1 series victory.

“That’s where I have to give Shuks (Conrad) a lot of credit for planning that SA A series,” Brand said.

“I was the only player from the Titans, so going into that series as captain I didn’t really know anyone, not from a personal level.

“So, after those three games the team was so tight and the team cohesion was amazing. Coming together now and seeing everyone again has been amazing. I’m thankful that I know the teammates that I am captaining.

“The SA20 is clashing with this tour and the main guys aren’t available. Someone said to me earlier that this team has 96 games per player as an average, so that’s a lot of first-class cricket between the group and I think that does have to count for something, hopefully.

“There’s not a lot of Test matches in this room but you still have to see it as a positive in that I don’t think anyone has any baggage, for one. We are just going to go out there and give it our best shot.

“It’s good that we (are) going to New Zealand being the underdogs. People have written us off and we are just using that as motivation. That will be the language going forward. Imagine if we come back with a win?”

The squad will play a three-day warm-up match next week at the Bert Sutcliffe Oval before the first Test of the series starts at the Bay Oval in Mount Maunganui on February 4.