The home team are missing a host of experienced stars, particularly in the batting unit, and it is in this area Ottis Gibson and the selectors are looking for players to put their hands up to push for World Cup consideration.
Into said category fall Aiden Markram, who struggled against spin in Sri Lanka, Heinrich Klaasen, Khaya Zondo, Christiaan Jonker, Reeza Hendricks and Dean Elgar, a late replacement for Hashim Amla.
Gibson wants to have at least two players pushing for each spot in the side and pointed out this week there was still a hole at the top of the order, which urgently required filling. The selectors had hoped Markram would be the one to fill it, but he lost confidence as he failed a trial by spin in the sub-continent.
Obviously the selectors still believe in him, and this series against a lesser team is the perfect chance for him to rebuild his confidence. He is likely to open too, probably with Hendricks, who made a century on debut in Sri Lanka, with Elgar to bat at no.3. For the little left-hander the series is an opportunity to stop himself being pigeon-holed as a Test player, and illustrate that the experience he gained playing One-Day matches for various English Counties will be beneficial.
This year, playing for Surrey in the One-Day competition in England, Elgar scored 229 runs in four innings, his strike rate a very healthy 91.60. Elgar opened twice and batted at no.3 twice, on both occasions making a half-century at ‘first drop’.
Skipper JP Duminy will anchor the middle order, and judging by how he was hitting the ball in training this week, he looks to have retained the excellent form which was such a feature of the series win in Sri Lanka.
Around him Zondo and Klaasen should feature initially, with the latter, according to Gibson, deserving of a longer run in the team having had very limited opportunities in Sri Lanka.
There has been talk about starting both of the frontline spinners in the squad, Tabraiz Shamsi and Imran Tahir, to test them as a combination alongside two frontline quick bowlers. That would negate the need for a second seam-bowling all-rounder which would mean one of Andile Phehlukwayo or Wiaan Mulder sitting out the first match.
Dale Steyn, Lungi Ngidi and Kagiso Rabada are likely to be rotated as tinkering with combinations continue with the attack.
South Africa: JP Duminy capt (capt), Dean Elgar (Multiply Titans), Reeza Hendricks, Imran Tahir, Christiaan Jonker, Heinrich Klaasen, Keshav Maharaj, Aiden Markram, Wiaan Mulder, Lungisani Ngidi, Andile Phehlukwayo, Kagiso Rabada, Tabraiz Shamsi, Dale Steyn, Khaya Zondo.
Zimbabwe: Hamilton Masakadza (capt), Solomon Mire, Craig Ervine, Brendan Taylor, Sean Williams, Peter Moor, Elton Chigumbura, Donald Tiripano, Kyle Jarvis, Brandon Mavuta, Richard Ngarava, Tinashe Kamunhukamwe, Wellington Masakadza, Ryan Murray, Tendai Chatara
1st ODI: Tomorrow, Kimberley, 10am
2nd ODI: Wednesday, Bloemfontein, 11am
3rd ODI: Saturday, October 6, Paarl, 1pm
South Africa v Zimbabwe
Played 38: SA won 35, Zimbabwe 2, No result 1
In SA: Played 17: SA 16, Zimbabwe 1
Top run scorers: For SA (v Zimbabwe): Herschelle Gibbs (16 matches) 735 runs; For Zimbabwe (v SA): Brendan Taylor (19 matches) 528 runs
Most wickets: For SA (v Zimbabwe): Shaun Pollock (19 matches) 18 wickets
For Zimbabwe (v SA): Proper Utseya (19 matches) 19 wickets